What To Do If… There’s A Fire At Home

A simple guide to make sure you're prepared for an emergency fire situation.

By Chris Ong        7 February 2022

It’s the weekend, and you have your day worked out: Take a relaxing morning stroll in the park, then come home to try out that recipe from an online cooking tutorial that you viewed for lunch, before driving out to meet friends for dinner.

But things can, and do, go wrong, at any time, to anyone. How so?

Imagine the following scenario: You return home to a smoking oven because you forget about that batch of cookies you were baking, which then lead to a fire breaking out in your home! What should you do?

Here, we sort out the steps to take when such an emergency occurs at home.

Household fires

With the possibility of personal mobility devices (PMDs) catching fire and rubbish in chutes disposed at common areas being burnt on top of the usual “fiery” kitchen mishaps, it would make sense to have a fire extinguisher at home. Unfortunately, not all of us have got one at home.

It is recommended that each household has at least one dry chemical powder fire extinguisher that is certified by a Certification Body accredited by the Singapore Accreditation Council.

Such fire extinguishers can be used to extinguish many types of household incipient fires. The list of authorised fire extinguisher dealers and servicing workshops are listed on the SCDF website.

For kitchen stove or oven fires

Stay calm and turn off the gas supply immediately, then stay away from the flames to assess the size of the fire to see if it’s small enough for you to manage. For oven fires, leave the oven door shut to let the fire die out and only attempt to extinguish the fire if you are able to do so.

For stove fires, do not try to move the cookware; instead cover the pan, wok or pot with a large lid (not ill-fitting) or a large-sized damp bath towel.

Never, ever, throw water at your stove, oven or the utensil that’s on fire as it could cause the flames to spread. If you have a dry chemical powder fire extinguisher, use it, and make sure that the fire is completely extinguished before you stop spraying.

For fires in other rooms or living spaces

Once again, stay calm. If you see that the fire’s ablaze on wood, plastic or fabric material or furniture such as the bed or chair, you can attempt to douse it with pails of water but make sure there isn’t any electrical equipment around.

If it’s sparked from an electrical equipment, do not use water. Instead, use a dry chemical powder fire extinguisher if you have one.

Evacuate if the fire gets out of control

Of course, if you see that the fire is turning into an inferno and you aren’t able to handle the flames, heat and smoke, shout “Fire!” loudly several times to alert all the members within your home and your neighbours, and get yourself and everyone at home out of your residence immediately to a safe area before calling 995 on your mobile for SCDF’s assistance.

Don’t try to gather up your belongings – you will be unpleasantly surprised to learn how fast a fire can spread and how toxic the smoke and gases can be.

How to evacuate safely

If you live in a larger house or were asleep or otherwise occupied in another part of your residence, it is possible that you might get disoriented, get too alarmed or not know where the fire is.

Do not panic

Find the nearest exit – a door – to evacuate. If needed, crouch low to the ground or even crawl under any smoke, to help protect you from inhaling smoke and toxic fumes, to get to the exit.

When you reach the door, check if the door or door handle is warm to the touch, or if there’s smoke curling around the door; it could be that there is a fire raging on the other side.

If you do open the door, open it slowly, and if you do spot fire or smoke, shut it quickly and look for an alternative means of escape.

Once out, close the door behind you to slow the spread of the fire (this action also applies if you are evacuating from the main door/exit of your home) and run away to a safe area. Stay out and away; don’t linger near your burning residence.

If you are trapped

In the unfortunate event that you find yourself unable to get out of your burning residence, enter a safe room, preferably one which has open windows, good ventilation and overlooks a road.

Shut the door behind you and seal the gap beneath the door with a blanket, rug, or other fabric to prevent smoke from entering the room.

Go to the window, shout for help to alert others of the fire and dial 995 for SCDF if you are able to. Meanwhile, keep calm and do not jump out of the building.

And should your clothes catch fire…

In the even more unfortunate event that your clothes are set ablaze, perform the “stop, drop and roll”. Stop what you are doing immediately and remain calm, drop to the ground, and roll over from side to side to smother the flames repeatedly while covering your face with your hands until the flames go out.

If you or someone else is unable to carry out this set of actions, try and smother the flames out with a towel or blanket (if it’s wet, all the better).

If you can, treat any burns immediately with cool running water for at least 10 minutes, gently remove clothing and any constricting accessories from the burnt area before it starts to swell, cover the wound with a sterile dressing and consult a doctor if the burn/scald is not severe. Otherwise, dial 995 for an ambulance for conveyance to hospital.

In addition, you could also do your part for the community by downloading the SCDF’s myResponder app and register yourself as a Community First Responder (CFR). The myResponder app works by notifying CFRs to cardiac arrest and fire cases within 400m radius of their location.

The app will also highlight nearby AEDs that may be available to responders and provide guided advisories in the mitigation of minor fires. CFRs can then proceed to the stated location and assist accordingly, or by providing further information on the ground situation to SCDF’s 995 Operations Centre. As at end Dec 2021, there are more than 103,000 CFRs registered with the myResponder app.

Please visit the SCDF’s website at www.scdf.gov.sg for more information on the myResponder app, fire safety as well as what you can do to protect yourself from fire incidents.

This article was written in support of Total Defence 2022, “Together We Keep Singapore Strong”. One of the 6 pillars of Total Defence, Civil Defence involves the ability of Singaporeans to spot signs of threats, respond effectively and recover quickly from crises.