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East Sussex Fire & Rescue Service logo

What to do if there is a fire

If there's a fire, you need to act quickly.

Make sure you are prepared and that everyone in your house knows exactly what to do.

Alert everyone                   

Make sure everyone in the house knows about the fire - shout and get everyone together.

Get everyone out

You should have an escape route planned that everyone in your house is familiar with.

As you escape, remember:

  • don't delay to save valuables or look for pets
  • don't investigate the fire
  • crawl on the floor if there's smoke - the air is cleaner near the floor
  • on the floor, put your nose as low as possible - remember, smoke is toxic and can kill you
  • as you go out, only open the doors you need to and close any open doors you can to slow the spread of the fire
  • feel doors with the back of your hand before you open them, if they're warm, don't open them - the fire is on the other side
  • if you're escaping with others, stay together if you can

If your clothes catch fire

  • don't run around - you will fan the flames and make them burn faster
  • lying down makes it harder for the fire to spread and reduces the effect of flames on your face and head - flames burn upwards
  • smother the flames - cover the flames with heavy material, like a coat or blanket; this blocks the fire's supply of oxygen
  • roll around - rolling smothers the flames

If you are trapped by fire

The common time for families to be caught in a fire situation is during the night. A good night time routine may help keep any escape route clear and a smoke alarm will give you an early warning of fire. However, if you are trapped by fire consider the following advice.

  • Get everyone into one room and close the door
  • Smoke and fumes can kill people quickly, so put bedding or towels along the bottom of the door to seal the gap
  • Open the window and stay near it for fresh air and let the Firefighters see you
  • Shout for help so neighbours can offer you assistance and call for the Fire Brigade
  • If you are on a ground or first floor, you may be able to escape from a window
  • If you have to break the window, cover the jagged glass with towels or thick bedding
  • Throw some more bedding out of the window to break your fall
  • Don't jump out of the window - lower yourself down to arm's length and drop to the ground
  • If you have any children or elderly or disabled people with you, plan the order you will escape in so that you can help them down
  • Don't stop or go back in for any reason

What to do if you live in a high-rise flat

If a fire starts in your flat or the stairwell and you can't get out:

  • get everyone into a room with a window - put cushions, bedding, or clothes around the bottom of the door to block smoke
  • open the window - if you feel in serious danger, wave a sheet out of the window so the firefighters know you're there
  • if the fire is directly outside your flat, seal your front door with tape, bedding or clothes, close any ventilators and phone 999
  • if your front door becomes hot, wet it down

Call 999

Once you're out and safe, try and find a phone to call the emergency services - 999 calls are free.

When you speak to the operator:

  • give your whole address, including the town
  • tell them what is on fire, eg 'a two-storey house'
  • explain if anyone is trapped and what room they're in - give as much information as you can so they can help you

Don't go back in

You should find somewhere safe to wait near the building.

If there's someone still inside, wait for the fire and rescue service to arrive.

You can tell them about the person and they will be able to find them quicker than you.

If you go back into the building, you will slow down the firefighters' efforts to rescue anyone else missing - and put your own life in danger.

After a fire: what to do

There is support available to help you and your family after a fire, including temporary accommodation.

Find out what services you can access, what actions you need to take and your responsibility to protect your property from further damage.

More information about what to do after a fire.

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