It's always a sad story that leads us to think about fire safety. Last week in NYC, a 27-year-old, newly-married man, Daniel McClung, was killed while trying to escape from his Hell's Kitchen apartment building during a fire. Cause of death: smoke inhalation. While his death is heartbreaking, at the very least, it's a powerful reminder to revisit this very important topic. Read on for some vital fire safety tips.
• First things first, prevention is key. Carefully guard all flamable materials, especially cigarettes and candles, and watch for electrical hazards like fraying chords and overloaded power strips. In the case of Daniel McClung's building, the FDNY believes it was an overtaxed electrical outlet that sparked the fire.
• Make sure your fire detection system is in place and operational. There should be working fire detectors on every floor of your residence, especially in the bedroom in case a fire should occur at night.
• If a fire does occur, having an escape plan will help you keep a clear head and avoid panic. Map out an evacuation route and, even if it seems uneccessary, practice your escape. Remember, during a fire, you don't want any doubt about where to go. It's a good idea to set a meeting place for your family to gather once out of the building. That way, you can alert fire crews if anyone is missing.
• If you do find yourself in a fire, especially in an unfamiliar place where you haven't prepared a plan, don't rush. Before you leave the apartment or room, feel the door to make sure it's cool. If it's hot, never open it. You could add oxygen to the fire and put yourself in more danger. Should you find yourself trapped, stuff damp towels or sheets around the door to prevent smoke from leaking through. If you can, call the fire department and tell them where you are in the building, or try to signal your location to people down below.
If you are able to open a cool door, never use the elevator to leave the building, always find the staircase. Remember, smoke rises so if you encouter a smokey area, drop to the floor and crawl under it if you can. Close every door behind you to prevent the fire from spreading. Once you are outside, call the fire department immedietely.
In a Gothamist article about the fire, FDNY Chief of Operations James Esposito pointed out that, had Daniel McClung had stayed in his aparment, he "would have survived, absolutely... It’s not the fire in these fire-proof multiple dwellings that will kill you. It’s the smoke that will kill you."
Read more apartment fire safety tips straight from the FDNY.
Our condolences go out to Mr. McClung's friends, family and husband.