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Escaping from a high-riseEscaping from a high-rise building

High-rise flats are built to be safe from fire, and most fires won’t spread further than one or two rooms.

Walls, ceilings and doors will hold back flames and smoke, so if there’s a fire somewhere else in the building, you’re usually safest in your flat unless you’re affected by heat or smoke.

Taking some time to make an escape plan will give you the confidence to know what to do if there’s a fire and will give you peace of mind. If you live in a flat above the first floor, most of your safety planning is exactly the same as for ground-floor homes. However, there are some important differences.

Follow the safety advice given in the previous sections of this guide, and also follow the precautions below.

Make a high-rise escape plan

  • Sit down with everyone who lives in your flat and talk about what you would do if there were a fire. Make sure everyone knows where the fire alarm is.
  • Choose an escape route. This should be the easiest way out. Think about how to get out of your flat, but also how to get from your floor to somewhere safe outside the building. Also decide on an alternative escape route, if one is available (but not a balcony).
  • Make sure your escape route is kept clear. Check that there aren’t any boxes, rubbish or things that could catch fire in corridors or stairways.
  • If your building has fire doors, make sure they always stay closed and are not propped open. (They are designed to stop fire and smoke from spreading.)
  • Make sure that doors to stairways and fire escapes aren’t locked. Regularly check that you can open these doors from both sides.
  • When planning your escape route, keep in mind that you must never use the lift. A fire can cut the power to the lift, leaving you stranded.
  • Choose a safe room. If you can’t escape you will need to find one room where you can wait to be rescued, preferably one with a window that opens and that has a phone in it.
  • Make sure everyone knows where the stairs are, as it’s easy to get confused in the dark. Count how many doors you will need to go through or past.

What to do if there’s a fire

  • Alert everyone in your flat. Don’t stop for valuables or to investigate the fire.
  • Before opening doors, check them with the back of your hand. If they’re warm, don’t open them – the fire is on the other side.
  • Alert neighbouring flats by banging on the doors on your way out. Set off the fire alarm, if there is one.
  • Don’t use the lift.
  • If there’s a lot of smoke, crawl along the floor where the air will be cleanest.
  • Once you are safely outside, use a mobile phone or a phone box to call 999. Give the emergency operator your name and address, including the number of your flat. Tell them what floor the fire is on, if you know this.
  • If the fire is blocking your exit, or if the stairs in your block of flats are blocked by fire or smoke, stay calm and go back inside your flat and wait for us to arrive.

If your escape route is blocked

And the fire is inside your flat...

  • Get everyone into the safe room you have chosen.
  • Put items such as cushions and bedding at the bottom of the door to stop smoke getting in.
  • Phone 999, giving your address and the number of your flat.
  • Open the window. If you feel in serious danger, wave a sheet out of the window so the firefighters know where you are.

Or if the fire is outside your flat...

  • Seal your front door with tape if you can, as well as cushions and bedding to stop smoke getting in.
  • Close any ventilators.
  • Phone 999, giving your address and the number of your flat.

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