Is Smoke from a Burning Building Really That Bad?
Breathing smoke from a burning building injures and kills more people than the fire itself. When escaping from a burning building, don't breath smoke or you might experience a firefighter's carry.
By Douglas Krantz
The fire horns are sounding off in your apartment building, in order to get out of the building should you go into the halls?
There's Smoke and There's Deadly Smoke
Cooking smoke can cause your eyes to water and make you cough. Cooking smoke is bad, but usually not deadly. Smoke from cooking was produced by burning food. In general, burnt food, while not appetizing, is almost never poisonous.
Apartment building smoke, from a real fire in the building is not so good for you. Apartment-building smoke, house-burning smoke, office-building smoke, car-fire smoke, all contain poisonous gasses. The least deadly for you is carbon monoxide (that's really bad by itself), but many times the building smoke will also contain other worse gasses.
Smoke from building fires comes from burning up chemicals like resins, and plastics. Because of the poisonous gasses from that kind of fire, sometimes with only a few deep breaths, building smoke will kill you.
Check Before Running Through the Halls
When the apartment building fire alarm is sounding off, open your door to the halls slowly. If the halls are full of smoke, use your judgement. There is no good choice in a real fire; some choices will be only be bad, other choices could be worse.
Maybe waiting in the apartment is less bad than risking your life by going through smoke, maybe trying to escape down the halls is less risky. Then again, waiting in the apartment to be rescued might be better than running out into the halls, and then being rescued by firefighters because you collapsed breathing smoke.
Don't Breathe Smoke
A fire marshal told me one time, if for any reason, one of his firefighters went into a burning building without first suiting up with a breathing tank and mask, that firefighter would be suspended. Professional firefighters know that breathing smoke is bad; you also need to know that breathing smoke is bad.
When the fire alarms sound in the apartment building, getting out of the building quickly is important. Just don't breathe smoke.