Photo credit: Karsten Moran/New York Times
A fire occurred at a high-rise building in Manhattan’s Upper West Side early this morning, where nine people escaped to the roof to wait out the fire and were safely rescued. Knowing your building's evacuation plan is critical, whether it's relocating to the rooftop or remaining in your apartment. This incident reinforces that sometimes getting outside to street level may not be possible, and that signaling for help on another level of the building is a safer option. Make sure you’re familiar with your building’s evacuation plan.
NFPA offers critical advice for people who live in high-rise buildings:
Know the plan: Make sure you’re familiar with your building’s evacuation plan, which should illustrate what residents are supposed to do in the event of an emergency. The evacuation plan should be posted in places where all residents can see and review it.
Practice is key: Building management should hold a fire drill with occupants at least once a year.
Never use the elevator: In case of fire, always use the stairs to get out, never the elevator. If someone in your family has difficulty climbing down steps, make sure to incorporate a contingency for this into your plan.
Stay low: Smoke from a fire is toxic and deadly no matter what kind of structure you live in. When you hold your fire drill, everyone in the family should practice getting low and going under the smoke to the exit. In the event of a fire, if both stairwells are filled with smoke, stay in your apartment and wait for the firefighters.
Seal yourself in for safety: If you can't exit an apartment building due to smoke or fire in the hallway, call the fire department to report your exact location and gather in a room with a window to await their arrival. Close all doors between you and the fire. Use duct tape or towels to create a seal around the door and over air vents in order to keep smoke from coming in.
Stay by the window: If possible, you should open your windows at the top and the bottom so fresh air can get in. Don't break the window - if smoke enters the room from outside the building, you won't be able to protect yourself.
Signal to firefighters: Wave a flashlight or light colored cloth at the window to let the fire department know where you are located.
Visit NFPA's website for more detailed information on escape planning in tall buildings.