Fire chief urges families to practice escape plans after several local fires

COHASSET, Mass. — A local fire chief is urging families to develop and practice escape plans in case of emergency after several recent fires in the area.

Cohasset Fire Chief John Dockray said being equipped with a plan can save critical moments and prevent serious injury or death to residents as well as responding firefighters.

“If you know your plan and you’ve practiced it, you’ll know to get out, where to get out, and get out as soon as possible,” Dockray said. “Seconds count, because fire grows exponentially. And the smoke and the heat will build up and build up, and then you’ll have no visibility. You’ll have difficulty breathing, and then all of a sudden you become incapacitated, and you can’t exit the building.”

Dockray urges families to walk through their homes together and determine the best escape routes to get out of each room. He stresses every family should have a meeting place once they have evacuated.

“Our primary means of egress or evacuating the house could be blocked by fire,” Dockray said. “So, we need to find a second way of getting out of the house. So, maybe instead of going out the front door, you may have to go out the back door or even through the garage.”

Because homes and properties change over time, updating and regularly practicing your escape plan and meeting place are important, Dockray said.

This week, Cohasset fire crews assisted Hingham on a fire at a multi-million-dollar home, where an 11-year-old boy, his nanny and a painter were able to escape without injury.

Last weekend, an historic hotel on Nantucket was destroyed by flames. An off-duty firefighter and a man with a neighbor’s ladder helped rescue vacationers.

In April, in North Conway, N.H., people jumped from balconies to escape a fire at the Red Jacket Mountain View Resort.

“If you stay in a hotel or motel, go over the best way out, make sure you know that the stairwells are at the end of the corridors,” Dockray said. “Always avoid using an elevator…have a predetermined point where you’re going to meet: you’re going to meet in the family car, or meet in the parking lot across the street.”

Adults should also explain to kids just how to get out if there is smoke, Dockray said.

“Definitely do not stand up in smoke,” the chief said. “Also, there’s hot gas up there, and that could always knock you out.”

Once a person has evacuated the building, it’s critical they stay out, he said.

“One of the things we’ve seen in years past is people have exited the building and they’ve gone back in and they didn’t come back out,” Dockray said.

Though crucial, an escape plan is only one component of fire preparedness. Dockray urges people to make sure they have working smoke detectors, change the batteries every six months and regularly test them.

“When a smoke alarm sounds, pay attention, and get out of the house,” Dockray said. “Don’t think it’s just a low battery or another nuisance alarm, No, early detection is key to survival.”

Download the FREE Boston 25 News app for breaking news alerts.

Follow Boston 25 News on Facebook and Twitter. | Watch Boston 25 News NOW