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Fires can happen anywhere. A fire in a large building creates an enormous risk to everyone. Other reasons for evacuating buildings include natural gas leaks, earthquakes, hazardous material spills and storms. Knowing what to do is the key to surviving a fire emergency. Conducting regular fire drills will give you the knowledge and confidence to escape a fire safely. There are two steps for a good evacuation program – planning and practice.

Most home and business fires start within the building. For example, a smoldering cigarette dropped into a trash can full of paper could ignite into flames. If the fire is not extinguished while in this early phase, it could spread throughout the structure.

Growth and Speed of Fire

The following is a timeline of an actual 2-story house fire. It will show you just how fast fire spreads:

1:30 Fire ignites and grows rapidly.
1:04 From first flame, fire spreads and smoke begins to fill room.
1:35 Smoke layer descends rapidly, temperature exceeds 190°F.
1:50 Smoke detector at foot of stairs alarms. Still time to get out.
2:30 Temperature above couch over 400°F.
2:48 Smoke pours into other rooms.
3:03 Temperature three feet above floor in room of origin is over 500°F. (No one could survive.)
3:20 Upstairs hall filled with smoke – Escape more difficult.
3:41 FLASHOVER – Energy in room of origin ignites everything. Temperature is 1400°F.
3:50 Two minutes after smoke detectors sounds, 2nd exit is only way out.
4:33 Flames just now visible from exterior of house – first evidence of fire from outside.

Less than five minutes is all it took. This leaves you very little time to sit around and think about what you are going to do. Fire does not sit around and wait for you to decide. When a fire breaks out in your home, have a plan of action. Know what you are going to do, because the hesitation you may have if you are unprepared can mean the difference between life and death.

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