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Do you know what to do if there's a fire in your high-rise building?

THIS WEEK IN FIRE SAFETY is brought to you by the Vaughan Fire and Rescue Service (VFRS).

April 27, 2018
Deryn Rizzi

High-rise buildings are designed to be more fire-safe than the average single-family home. Floors and ceilings are constructed with fire-resistant materials and are separated into fire compartments.

Most of the time, the best thing to do in a fire is leave the building as soon as possible. But in some cases you may not be able to leave and you may have to stay in your apartment. In either case, you must act quickly as seconds count. The longer you wait, the greater the risk that smoke has spread through the corridors. No matter what your decision, you must protect yourself from the smoke.

If there is a fire in your unit:

-Tell everyone in the unit to leave -- close, but don't lock, all doors behind you

-Pull the fire alarm on your floor and yell “FIRE”

-Leave the building using the nearest stairway -- DO NOT USE THE ELEVATOR

-Call 9-1-1 when you are safe

-Meet family members in your pre-determined meeting place

- Meet the firefighters and tell them where the fire is

If you decide to leave the building, when you hear the alarm:

1. Check the door to your unit:

-If you see smoke or feel heat, close the door quickly and protect yourself from smoke inside the unit

- If there is no smoke or heat, brace yourself against the door and open it slowly

2. Check the corridor:

- If the corridor is clear, take your keys, close the door behind you and go to the nearest exit stairway -- DO NOT USE THE ELEVATOR

3. Open the nearest exit stairway door carefully:

- If there is no smoke, travel DOWN the stairs to leave the building

- If there is smoke, close the door and go to another exit stairway – if this is not an option, return to your unit or seek shelter in another unit

- Close all doors behind you

If an announcement is made throughout the building, listen carefully and follow the directions. Once out of the building, stay out -- do not go back into the building until the fire department tells you it's safe.

If you can't get out of your unit, or you decide to stay in your unit:

- Stay in your apartment until you are rescued or until you are told to leave -- this may take a long time

- DO NOT try to leave your apartment a long time after the alarm has sounded. The longer you wait, the greater risk there is that heavy smoke will have spread into stairways and corridors, decreasing your chances of survival

- Keep smoke from entering your apartment by using duct tape to seal cracks around the door and place wet towels at the bottom -- seal vents or air ducts the same way

If smoke enters your apartment:

- Call 9-1-1 and tell them where you are

- Move to the balcony and close the door behind you

- If you don’t have a balcony, go to the most smoke-free room, close the door and seal it with tape and towels

- If necessary, open the window for fresh air. Show emergency personnel where you are by hanging a sheet from the window or balcony

- Keep low to the ground where the air is cleaner.

- Listen for instructions from firefighters.

Whether you stay or go, it's crucial to keep doors and windows closed if possible. Allowing natural ventilation through a high-rise building will cause smoke and fire to travel unnecessarily.

Fire safety begins with you. It's important to know the fire safety features in your building and emergency procedures outlined in the building's fire safety plan. Know the locations of all available exit stairs from your floor in case the nearest one is blocked by fire or smoke.

Click here to read the Vaughan Fire and Rescue Service's High-rise Emergency Preparedness Booklet.