What You Need to Know Survival in High Rise Fires

It's a nightmare scenario. From the 1970s-era disaster movie The Towering Infernoto the very real nightmare of 9/11, the idea of being trapped by a raging fire hundreds of feet in the air is nothing anybody wants to contemplate.

High-rise fires are a mercifully rare occurrence, but they do happen. With the proper hardware installed in your building, a clear evacuation plan and some basic tenant knowledge, high-rise fires can be prevented—or survived.

Cause & Effect

James Long, a New York City firefighter of fourteen years currently serving as a spokesman in the FDNY's Office of Public Information, says that the number one cause of fires in any building, high-rise or otherwise, is the preventable accident.

"The four main causes of preventable accidents are: electrical—overloading outlets, improper use of power strips and extension cords, unattended candles left close to combustibles, lighters and matches left in the reach of children, and careless smoking." If more people would regularly check for frayed wires and dangerous electrical outlets in their home, many of these fires could be prevented—which is to say nothing of the number of fires that could be avoided if open flames were a no-no when kids (or careless adults) are around.

According to the New York State Office of Fire Prevention and Control, fire kills more Americans than all other natural disasters combined. In the ten years from 1995–2005, 43,900 people in the U.S. died in fires. On average, there are somewhere around 3,000 serious fires in New York City each year, "serious" being defined as fires declared "all hands" by the FDNY.


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  • Richard Reaves, President on Friday, November 14, 2008 2:13 PM
    My company specializes in Fire Life Safety for High-Rise residential buildings in New York City, for fire and non-fire emergencies. I would be willing to speak at your next group meeting or work with anyone who is interested in using my services.