The type of building you live in can determine how you should respond to a fire.

That means, you should know your building type.

For example, do you live in a private home? A brownstone or row house? A high rise apartment building?

If you live in a private home, brownstone or small apartment building, it’s better to leave if there is a fire.

If you live in a high rise apartment building (especially one without a fire escape) and the fire is not in your apartment, it’s often better to stay in your apartment, call 911 and wait for the fire department.

Should you stay or should you go? If the fire is in your apartment, regardless of construction type:

Get everyone out. Stay low as you go.
Use your safest and most accessible exit.

CLOSE ALL DOORS as you leave.

If using an interior stairway, alert people on your floor by knocking on their doors on your way out.


Call 911 once you reach a safe location.

If you live in a non-fireproof building and there is a fire, it is usually safer to leave the building immediately. Fireproof does not mean the building is immune to fire. Things inside can generate life threatening heat and smoke.

If you live in a fireproof building and there is a fire, it is usually safer to:

Stay inside rather than entering smoke-filled hallways. If the fire is on a floor below your apartment, you may be caught by rising heat and smoke in the stairways. If the fire is above your apartment, there is less danger in leaving but also less of a reason to leave as the smoke and the heat are above you.

Keep your door CLOSED.

Seal the door with duct tape or wet sheets and towels. Seal ventilators and other openings where smoke may enter.
Turn off air conditioners.

Unless flames or smoke are coming from below, open your windows a few inches at the top or bottom. Don’t break windows; they may need to be closed later.

Call the Fire Department with your apartment number and a description of the conditions in your apartment.