Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Fire in your high-rise building? Stay put!

It is a basic human instinct reinforced by countless grade-school fire drills: When you see flames or smell smoke, get out. ... But in modern high-rise buildings, fire safety experts say, flight can be deadly.

As they raced down the stairs, the couple ran into a suffocating plume of smoke sucked upward as if through a chimney when firefighters opened the stairwell door and pushed into the burning apartment.

Had the couple remained in their home, Mr. McClung would have survived, officials said. The fire turned out to be isolated to an apartment 18 floors below where the couple lived. Because the building was constructed of fire-resistant materials, the blaze barely spread. Even residents who remained in apartments directly next door to the fire emerged unscathed.

A fire safety notice that is supposed to be affixed to every entry door makes clear that staying in place is often the safest strategy during a fire.
--Michael Schwirtz, NYT, on why I will ignore my apartment building's next fire alarm