We like to keep our blogs informative and as lighthearted as possible when talking about something as important as safety and security. Sometimes though, there are issues we need to address hard on because they are far too important to ignore. That is the case today in talking about the time it takes to escape a fire, and the time it takes for a fire to achieve flashover.
Three Minutes is Not an Arbitrary Amount of Time
It makes sense to get out of a burning structure as quickly as possible but have you ever wondered why you hear in nearly every fire safety PSA that you have “three to five minutes to escape”? Fires react predictably to a set of predictable circumstances, such as whether it is a structure fire or a wildfire. The human body also reacts predictably to fire conditions. When calculating response time (3-5 minutes) the federal government makes recommendations to emergency medical response agencies based on an average between several factors. These factors include the time lack of oxygen can lead to irreversible brain damage (six minutes) and the time to flashover (which can happen in as few as two minutes). It’s clear that the time it takes to get out safely is short, and should be a lot shorter than five minutes.
The brain becomes seriously impaired (affecting our decision-making process) long before smoke and fumes cause irreversible brain damage, and the window between complete lucidity and flashover (when temperatures reach between 900 and 1200 degrees Fahrenheit and room contents are able to combust- a condition which humans cannot survive) is much narrower than most people realize.
If you are thinking about home fire safety, there are many practical considerations you need to factor in to your safety plan. The first consideration is that most people do not live within five minutes of a fire station, so escaping safely will depend on your own preparations. Next you need to remember the contents of the home will influence the fire. A large number of homes have large amounts of synthetic materials which fuel a fast burning fire. Newer homes also have a tighter envelope, holding in heat and fumes which lead to dangerous conditions forming more rapidly. The age and physical ability of the occupants is also a serious consideration in the time it takes to escape safely.
Practical Solutions and Conclusions
Be proactive. Have working monitored smoke detectors and smoke alarms on every level ad in every sector of your home. Prepare and practice a fire escape plan. And in the event of an actual emergency, get out FAST. Do not worry about gathering belongings, and never reenter a burning structure.
A professionally monitored fire and smoke alarm system can alert you and authorities to smoke carbon monoxide, and even flooding and elemental dangers- saving lives before it’s too late. If you have any questions about fire alarm systems, please call us today.