Saturday, May 11, 2013
Know Where The Exits Are
Disaster struck when a fire broke out somewhere on the lower floors of an 11-story garment factory. Smoldering acrylic material created a lot of smoke that rose through the upper floors of the building, setting off a panic among workers. They rushed for the front stairwell, but the toxic fumes overwhelmed them, and the victims suffocated.
Mamun Mahmud, deputy director of the fire service, reported that the building had two stairwells at the front and an emergency exit in the back. "Had they used the emergency stairwell, they would have survived," he said.
"They also would have likely survived the slow-spreading fire had they stayed on the upper floors. We found the roof open, but we did not find there anybody after the fire broke out. We recovered all of them on the stairwell on the ninth floor."
This tragic incident points out the importance of always knowing where the exits are, and having a plan to use them in an emergency. It doesn't matter whether you're in a garment factory in Bangladesh or a nightclub in Rhode Island (the 2003 Station nightclub fire comes to mind), or your own home — your ability to find a way out is a primary survival strategy.
Whenever you enter a building, make yourself aware of every possible way to get out of that building. Be especially cognizant of the "secondary" escape routes, because human nature will cause most of the people in the building to attempt an escape through the front door. In the case of the garment factory fire, all of the victims were found piled up on the primary stairwell, and according to the authorities, if the workers has used the secondary (rear) exit, they would have lived.
Realizing that most people trapped in a room will rush for the main exit, plan your survival strategy to use a secondary exit — be it a door, a window, or another room (or a different floor, such as the basement or roof) that gets you out of the way of the immediate danger.
In the Station nightclub fire, the crush of people trying to flee out the front door became an immediate gridlock that trapped 100 victims inside. Others were injured by being trampled in the stampede.
Switch on your situational awareness whenever you enter a room, and have an escape plan in mind so you can get out alive.