When there is a fire, save yourself first, paramedics say

Emergency officials warn people against ignoring evacuation procedures

20:00 August 4, 2017

Dubai: If fire breaks out at home, you should only do one thing: run, advises an expert.

Prioritise your life over possessions during a fire evacuation, emergency officials have warned in the light of a few fire incidents that saw people ignoring instructions and risking their lives.

Whether the fire is minor or major, the right step is to leave everything behind, as taking wrong decisions during an emergency evacuation could cost you your life, said Hareb Al Yaeesh, a former paramedic and a current head of Emergency Unit of Bur Dubai, Dubai Corporation for Ambulance Services.

The last six months of this year have seen cases where people have ignored evacuation procedures and attempted to enter their apartments and villas, he said.

“A recent incident was only five weeks ago in Al Jafiliya where a family kept resisting paramedics for the sake of going back into their house to grab their official documents, such as passports. It took us a lot of effort to hold them back and not allow them in before the Dubai Civil Defence arrived,” he said.

Al Yaeesh said paramedics have experienced similar incidents with people of certain nationalities who tend to risk their lives to not lose their belongings in a fire, and in some cases, their pets.

“In many situations, we’ve had to convince residents of the risks so they don’t attempt to get back inside. They often don’t realise that seconds can be the difference between life and death,” he said.

He pointed out that even if it was a pet that could not be evacuated in time, residents should not put themselves in dangerous situations.

In a recent case, which, Al Yaeesh said, is common, a woman who was evacuated from a building was crying and panicking because her pets were still stuck inside and she wanted to save them.

“At that moment we were very concerned, because she referred to them as her ‘babies’ and we had to act quickly even though it meant risking our lives before Civil Defence arrives. We kept her calm until we managed to get back in to rescue them, but when were inside, it turned out they were three dogs not her babies.”

Referring to the incident with the Emirates Boeing 777 plane that crash-landed in Dubai before bursting into flames, he said it was an example of how people ignored evacuation instructions.

“Several passengers were attempting to take suitcases from overhead lockers and collect their personal belongings as the right engine burnt and this caused a major delay in evacuation,” he said.

He reiterated that people should know what the priorities are and realise that seconds can be the difference between life and death.

Most deaths in house or building fires are not due to burns but due to smoke inhalation, fire experts have said.

“Most importantly, people should keep in mind that their only priority is to save themselves first and then others. If someone is still stuck inside, leave it for emergency personnel to handle the case so you do not end up being a victim of the fire,” Al Yaeesh said.