Emergencies in high-rise structures present unique planning and response strategies. Individuals who live and work in these special structures should be aware of fire prevention and safety issues that are specific to high-rises.


Be Prepared For a High-Rise Fire Emergency

  • Never lock fire exits, doorways, halls or stairways. Fire doors provide a way out during a fire and slow the spread of fire and smoke. Never prop stairway or other fire doors open.

  • Learn your building’s evacuation plan. Make sure everyone knows what to do if the fire alarm sounds. Plan and practice your escape plan together.

  • Be sure your building manager posts evacuation plans in high traffic areas, such as lobbies.

  • Learn the sound of your building's fire alarm and post emergency numbers near all telephones.

  • Know who is responsible for maintaining the fire safety systems. Make sure nothing blocks these devices and promptly report any sign of damage or malfunction to the building management.

  • Follow Fire Safety Tips for additional suggestions.

Do Not Panic in the Event of a High-Rise Fire Emergency

  • Do not assume someone else has already called the fire department.

  • Immediately call 9-1-1. Early notification of the fire department is important. The dispatcher will ask questions regarding the emergency. Stay calm and give the dispatcher the requested information.

If the Door is Warm to the Touch

  • Before you try to leave your apartment or office, feel the door with the back of your hand. If the door feels warm to the touch, do not attempt to open it. Stay in your apartment or office.

  • Stuff the cracks around the door with towels, rags, bedding or tape and cover vents to keep smoke out.

  • If there is a phone in the room where you are trapped, call the fire department again to tell them exactly where you are located. Do this even if you can see fire apparatus on the street below.

  • Wait at a window and signal for help with a flashlight or by waving a sheet.

  • If possible, open the window at the top and bottom, but do not break it; you may need to close the window if smoke rushes in.

  • Be patient. Rescuing all the occupants of a high-rise building can take several hours.

If the Door is Cold to the Touch

  • If you do attempt to open the door, brace your body against the door while staying low to the floor and slowly open it a crack. This is to check for the presence of smoke or fire in the hallway.

  • If there is no smoke in the hallway or stairwells, follow your building's evacuation plan.

  • If you don't hear the building's fire alarm, pull the nearest fire alarm "pull station" while exiting the floor.

  • If you encounter smoke or flames on your way out, immediately return to your apartment or office.

After a High-Rise Fire Emergency

  • Once you are out of the building, STAY OUT! Do not go back inside for any reason.

  • Tell the fire department if you know of anyone trapped in the building.

  • Only enter when the fire department tells you it is safe to do so.

For Additional Information