Texas Fire Marshal: Preplanned Exit Strategies Proved Vital in Plane Crash

February 24, 2010

The Texas Fire Marshal’s office says that preplanned exit strategies were vital in limiting the number of casualties on Feb. 18 in Austin when a disturbed pilot flew his single-engine plane into an office building that housed 190 employees of the Internal Revenue Service.

The pilot, Joe Stack, who had a grudge against the IRS, flew the plane loaded with fuel at full speed into the building, creating a fireball that shot out 50 feet in all directions and blew out windows. Within minutes the office building fire was fully involved. Yet casualties were limited to only one fatality in addition to the pilot, two injuries requiring hospitalization, and 11 heat-related injuries treated on the scene.

According to building occupants, the evacuation was generally calm and orderly. The building had been properly designed with two ways to exit from each floor, and previous evacuation drills had prepared occupants ahead of time for finding the quickest and safest way out.

“The low casualty rate in this instance is a perfect example of the value of having an exit strategy when entering public spaces,” said Texas State Fire Marshal Paul Maldonado.” Many people don’t realize how quickly a building can become a death trap in the event of a fire. Every second counts, and there’s just no substitute for being prepared in advance.”

It only takes a few moments to develop an exit strategy. Fire safety professionals recommend making a mental note of both the entrance and at least one alternate exit when entering a building. It’s important to remember that the entrance may not be the best way to get out in the event of a fire.

The State Fire Marshal’s Office (SFMO) has developed a public awareness campaign called “Have An Exit Strategy” to stress the concept of personal responsibility and planning your escape in case of disaster.

The program was developed after a study of the 2003 fire at “The Station” nightclub in Rhode Island, in which 100 patrons died. In 2004 the SFMO began random inspections of bars, nightclubs, and dancehalls in eight Texas counties. Of the 189 establishments inspected, 96% had violations involving blocked exits.

“You can improve your chances for survival in a fire or other type of disaster by taking personal responsibility for your safety,” says State Fire Marshal Maldonado, “which includes having an exit strategy wherever you are – where you live, work, and play. Wherever you are right now, take a moment to locate your exits and plan your exit strategy.”

Have An Exit Strategy, www.tdi.state.tx.us/fire/fmpo.html

Source: Texas Fire Marshal’s Office

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