Getting out Alive: Clearly Understanding Emergency Exits

Getting out Alive:  Clearly Understanding Emergency Exits


Emergency exits are there for a reason:  To provide a fast and alternate way out of a space if the main one is blocked.  They are supposed to be lighted, clearly marked and easy to find in adverse conditions.  However, getting to the right one and getting out are two different things.  Let’s look at the importance of knowing the proper use of escape routes so you can give yourself the best chance to get out alive.

More than One Exit


You should never be in a place that has only one exit, period.  This includes your home, office, vehicle, public building or apartment.  If that exit gets blocked, you are a sitting duck for any one of a million things that can go wrong and cause injury or death if you can not escape.  One exit should be in the front, and the other on the side or rear that leads out in a different direction along a dedicated route.  Most buildings are supposed to be designed with this feature in mind, and it’s essential that you know where they are and where they lead.

Don’t Assume Fire Escapes Work

Check the functionality and overall condition of fire escapes in case you need to hop onto your balcony and make your way down in a hurry.  The last thing that you need is use this emergency exit to escape smoke and flame inside only to find out that you can’t get very far in the rear.  If your exit is broken or damaged, inform the responsible party and demand that it is repaired immediately.  The same applies if you have a problem with one of your own emergency exits.  Fix it ASAP so you know that it will be useful during a fire or other cause of an imminent evacuation.


Many of us have heard the safety briefings regarding how many emergency exits are available on a particular aircraft to the point where they lull us to sleep.  However, you never know when you will need to avail yourself of one of them.  Keep in mind that one or more of these exits may be impassable or too dangerous to use during a real emergency.  Crews will not open doors  if they see smoke or flame outside.  Some exit chutes will not deploy properly.  People, luggage or seats may be blocking the way. 

Make an escape plan while you are on board that involves the use of more than one exit.  Have a strategy in mind with how you will maneuver around obstacles and even people to get out if necessary.  Count the rows of seats that are between you and the exit before and behind your row.  Finally, be prepared to open a door or deploy a slide that has not yet been opened by the crew in a life-threatening situation.


Laws make it a requirement for building managers to draw out customized escape routes for occupants in every room.  These placards are paced on doors, walls and in hallways.  However, some of them can be confusing to decipher or to those who are a little bit graphically-challenged.  The best way to know about multiple escape routes is to practice.  Walk through corridors, get familiar with fire-safe rooms, fire escapes and even windows that open up and allow you to step outside if necessary.  This way, you will know exactly where to go and what to do if one or more exits are blocked during the heat of a crisis.

Be Responsible

Remember that you are responsible for your own survival.  Never rely on signage, lighting or instructions from evacuation marshals or air crews in a real emergency.  You may never hear them, they may be frazzled and disoriented, and the consequences can be catastrophic for those who are led astray.  Always be prepared to act on your own accord if these or other issues get in the way of your ability to make a safe and hasty exit during an emergency.  The first step is to be aware of your surrounding, exits and routes.  The second step is to practice in order to build a mental map.  Do this today, and you will have a better chance of getting out alive tomorrow.

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