What to do when the mall is on fire

Following the fire that broke out in the TriNoma Mall compound, review safety measures so you won’t get caught unawares.

A fire broke out in a warehouse of the Landmark building of Quezon City’s TriNoma Mall, at around 1400H of 13 March 2017; it was declared under control nearly four hours later. The management of the mall has since reported that four people were injured and brought to the hospital. One employee—Anthony Molina, an air-conditioning technician—had been trapped in the burning warehouse, and was rescued by the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP).

Even as investigators are at work discovering the root of the fire, it was only a mere day later that witnesses reported seeing thick black smoke rising from the mall’s rooftops—alarming nearby residents and traffic along EDSA, especially the commuters aboard the North Avenue MRT Station attached to the compound. The management, however, reported that the smoke was only from a generator, and not yet-another fire outbreak.

With March fittingly tagged as Fire Prevention Month, and as the summer season begins to take hold of the country in earnest, it’s best to review safety measures that will help you know what to do in case you’re in a public space host to a fire:

  • It takes two minutes for your house to be filled with toxic fumes from a fire. Majority of casualties from fires are caused by suffocation rather than the fire itself.
  • A well-rehearsed emergency exit plan greatly alleviates panic during an outbreak of fire. Always review the safety strategies of the building you are in.
  • Try to close the door of the burning room and close all the doors behind you as you leave. This is to delay the spread of fire and smoke.
  • Before you open a door, feel it with the back of your hand to determine if the room behind it is burning.
  • Fumes and hot air settle at the ceiling; the best air is one to two feet from the floor. Crawl to the exit with a wet piece of cloth to cover your mouth.
  • Fire spreads at a very fast rate, doubling its volume every 30 seconds. It is utmost priority to get everyone out before you consider your possessions.
  • Never go back into the burning building until a firefighter declares it safe to do so. Even after flames have been put out, there is still the risk of a roof collapse, live wires, and a backdraft—an explosion that occurs when oxygen suddenly meets very hot temperatures and fuel.

The BFP has also recommended the following for you to keep in mind, in case you are trapped inside a burning building:

  • Position yourself in a room with windows leading outdoors.
  • Alert people outside that you are still inside the burning building; shout for help, and if you can, get a light-colored cloth to wave outside the window.
  • Seal the room. Close the doors and patch any gaps with towels or sheets to prevent smoke from coming in.
  • If trapped in the upper floors of the building, try to collect bedsheets and foam cushions or mattresses. These could help you when escaping through the window.
  • Do not run if your clothes catch fire. Instead: Stop moving, drop to the ground, and roll.
  • Clear flammable debris from the window. Rip off anything that may burn.
  • Don’t break the glass windows. You may need to close it against smoke entering from the outside. If the air outside is fresh, open the window a little.

The BFP has released a document, “Prevent Fire through Good Housekeeping,” for your perusal and your personal safety. In addition to the information outline above, it also has tips on how to secure your homes. SecurityMatters Magazine highly recommends that you download the PDF.