I have a bit of a weird fear that’s been bothering me. I worry about fires. I guess that’s not a weird thing to worry about, exactly, but I think it’s weird how much I think about it lately. In particular, I think about fires in tall buildings like dorms and apartment buildings. I know there was a bad fire in New York City last year, and it made me freak out a bit about how people get out of buildings like that when they’re on fire. If you’re at the top, aren’t you just trapped?
I might be moving to a big city when I graduate, so I might be living in one of those big tall buildings myself. So I thought I’d ask the experts: what kind of tips do you have for fire safety? Do you have anything to say that could reassure me?
It’s perfectly reasonable to be a bit concerned about fires: they’re a real-world problem, and they really do happen: there are over one million fires per year in the United States. But, of course, our fears are only worth feeling when they’re useful. So we’ll lay out some key information and tips below, but if you find that this isn’t enough to keep you reasonably calm, it may be time to address your anxiety with a professional.
Let’s start by talking about why fires may not be quite as dangerous to tall buildings as you believe. It’s true that there was a bad fire in the Bronx last year, but it’s also true that tall buildings are designed with fire safety in mind. In large city apartment buildings, builders use “fireproof” methods that isolate apartments within the building as much as possible–meaning that residents can (and often should) stay in their apartments even when there’s a fire elsewhere in the building. Companies behind condominiums in Boulder told us that modern buildings are remarkably safe, with a great deal of thought being put into dangers like fire so that tenants and owners can rest easy.
Of course, no amount of fire safety measures on the part of builders and landlords releases you from your own responsibilities. Run through a fire safety checklist to be sure that you’re prepared! Make sure you have smoke detectors and that they work. Keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen of your apartment. Check for common fire hazards–things like frayed wires, dust on electric heaters, furniture too close to heaters, problems with the oven, and so on. Know your emergency exit routes–and perhaps even run a fire drill.
If there is a fire in your space, don’t panic. If the fire is small enough, you can attempt to put it out with a fire extinguisher or with another method (remember to smother grease fires rather than pouring water on them!). In the event of a more serious incident, call the fire department or 9-1-1 if you can. Know if you should attempt to leave–in the case of fires in neighboring apartments (not your own) in “fireproof” high-rise apartment buildings, it’s often safer to stay in your apartment and wait for the fire department. If you attempt to leave, know the emergency exit routes ahead of time, and stay low to avoid smoke and try to make your way out of the space, remembering to put a hand to doors before opening them to see if there’s fire on the other side.
Above all, listen to the instructions of firefighters and other first responders when they arrive on the scene. Firefighters are the experts here. Their expertise is the best way to save lives, and their high-pressure hoses and high-pressure water pumps are the best way to fight the fire. Listen to them and stay as calm as possible.
Hopefully, a fire is something you’ll never have to deal with. But it helps to be prepared, so take the steps laid out in this article! If you still feel seriously anxious about fire, you should consider speaking to a professional about your fears and anxiety.
“The most tangible of all visible mysteries–fire.” — Leigh Hunt