Following a massive fire that broke out on the fourth floor of a building located on Hosur Road, Bangalore, a man in an attempt to save his life, jumped to the ground and sustained injuries on October 18, 2023. Experts say that in most massive fire accidents, people tend to panic and act before thinking. The key is to remain calm and think of ways to survive a fire emergency by continuous breathing before finding a safe exit. While no casualties were reported, the man landed on a tree before crashing on the ground and is currently being treated.
Ways to secure your breath in a fire emergency?
Shedding light on ways to keep oneself safe during a fire breakout, Dr Satyanarayana Mysore, HOD & consultant – pulmonology lung transplant physician, Manipal Hospital, Airport Road, Bangalore says that one must shout for help, and alert others about your presence.
Dr Mysore suggests the following life saving measures:
- Do not jump from a fire struck building, unless assisted by fire and emergency services
- Look out for any easy openings and fire exits, which will serve as an escape route.
- During a fire, smoke tends to hang around in the upper layer of the room’s atmosphere. A person should stoop to the ground to prevent inhaling smoke.
- If the fire breaks out in an industrial or corporate set up, one may be familiar with the fire drills, disaster plans and assembly points. Stay calm and try to recall and apply the knowledge.
- Take a wet cloth, wriggle out the water, and tie to cover nose and mouth, so as to avoid inhaling the poisonous smoke
- Do not use lift as fire may cause the lift to break down or catch fire. One must opt for stairs.
The same measures are applicable in case of a fire breakout at home.
Elaborating on the measures to be taken as soon as someone is out from a fire breakout and reaches a hospital, Dr Mysore stresses the importance of checking one’s oxygen saturation levels. “There is a possibility of carbon monoxide poisoning, leading to low oxygen levels while the carbon mixed hemoglobin will be higher. There may be soot particles in the oral cavity and the nasal apertures. Medical attention should be given to assess and ensure there is no internal burn injury,” said Dr Mysore.
He adds that, when there is in proximity to an explosion, there will be pneumatic and thermal injuries within the lung. These parameters need to be assessed.
One of the most common complications seen among fire tragedy victims is post-smoke-inhalation injury, caused due to carbon monoxide poisoning.
Dr Mysore emphasizes the importance of training in fire combat and fire disaster planning.
“In massive fire accidents, people tend to push each other, hit against walls or furniture while trying to protect themselves and sustain fractures or injuries. They need to keep their safety in mind and stay calm while exiting the building ensuring they don’t harm themselves or others in the process,” says Dr Vishwa Reddy, a member of Association of Emergency Physicians India.
On the outside, people may sustain first, second or third degree burns but they could also sustain internal injuries while looking completely fine on the outside, says Dr Reddy, associate professor and incharge – Emergency Medicine Department, Apollo Hospitals, Hyderabad. Once the person is rescued from the fire incident and brought to safety, perform first aid for burns while waiting for the medical team to arrive.
Dr Reddy suggests the following measures to avoid mishap:
- Avoid pushing each other and crowing while exiting to prevent a stampede. Move in a line.
- If someone is unconscious, get them to safety and check their pulse. If there is no pulse, perform CPR immediately as the person may have sustained a cardiac arrest.
- Do not crowd near fire incident areas or stand close as inhaling the toxic fumes would damage the lungs and affect the other organs internally.
There are three types of injuries caused by fire accidents, says Dr Reddy. She explains:
- Inhalation Injury: Inhalation of gasses, smoke, chemicals and fumes, can lead to rupture of lungs, causing pneumothorax, acute respiratory distress syndrome and damage to other organs.
- Electrical Injury: Can lead to arrhythmias, abnormal heart rhythm and sudden cardiac arrest.
- Thermal Injury: Apart from various degrees of burns, it can lead to heat exhaustion, heat stroke and multiorgan failure.
Fear of fire, urge to survive grapples those stuck in a fire mishap. In acute stressful situations, many ignore the ways to sustain the precious breath till the time they get help to move out of a building. While the instant reflex will be to exit the building at the fastest, it is not advisable to use the elevator. Using a wet cloth around the nose and the mouth helps in breathing poisonous smoke.