Here is what you need to know about getting out of burning buildings

A guide to preventing fires and keeping safe when stuck in a blaze

01 September 2023 - 07:23 By Thango Ntwasa
subscribe Just R20 for the first month. Support independent journalism by subscribing to our digital news package.
Subscribe now


City of Johannesburg EMS spokesperson Robert Mulaudzi said it is important to keep safe at all times.

He provided the following checklist:

  • Check your fire extinguishing systems — such as smoke detectors‚ sprinklers‚ fire hose reels and extinguishers — are in good working order. This equipment must be serviced regularly.
  • Ensure safety signs are clearly displayed in accordance with the Occupational Health & Safety Act.
  • Fire escapes‚ exits and stairways must be clear of any obstacles at all times.
  • Fire doors and smoke screens must be properly secured.
  • Have an evacuation plan in place‚ appoint emergency marshals and regularly conduct drill exercises.
  • Flammables must be securely stored and comply with safety regulations.
  • Do not leave open flames unattended.
  • Inspect electrical connections and any potential sources of fire to avoid accidents.


The Western Cape government has supplied tips on how to safeguard your home if you live in an apartment building:

  • Never lock or block fire exits or doorways, halls or stairways. Fire doors provide a way out and slow the spread of fire and smoke. Never prop open the stairway or fire doors.
  • Learn your building's evacuation plans. Make sure everyone knows what to do if the fire alarm goes off. Plan and practice your escape plan.
  • Make sure your building manager displays evacuation routes in high-traffic areas like passages.
  • Know the sound of your building's fire alarm and display 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.

More than 70 people died in a fire that gutted a 'hijacked' building in Johannesburg's CBD on August 31 2023. There are informal structures set up in buildings which may be a cause of the high loss of life. #SouthAfrica #News Support independent journalism by subscribing to TimesLIVE Premium. Just R20 for the first month.


The City of Tshwane has supplied a list of 17 measures to avoid fires in informal settlements. 

  • Never cook near materials that can ignite.
  • Make sure all stoves are on a stable surface to prevent them falling over.
  • Make sure all candles are placed in a safe, non-combustible candle holder.
  • Be aware of the dangers of illegal and faulty electrical connections. All electrical connections must be installed by an accredited electrician.
  • Discard cigarettes in a safe container and ensure they are extinguished.
  • Keep a bucket with water handy to extinguish small fires.
  • Keep a bucket filled with sand handy to extinguish paraffin fires.
  • Keep a close eye on paraffin stoves. Never use water to extinguish paraffin stove fires.
  • Build dwellings a good distance apart (at least 3m) to prevent fires from spreading rapidly. Open spaces must be kept clean and clear.
  • Keep roads and access to dwellings clear at all times if emergency vehicles have to respond.
  • Do not block roads with possessions when there is a fire.
  • Do not prevent or disrupt emergency personnel when they attend to incidents.
  • All open fires must be extinguished before you leave the area or go to sleep.
  • Ensure there is enough ventilation when cooking food on open flames inside your dwelling.
  • Take special care when using gas appliances to cook food. Te cylinders must be in good condition and tested regularly for any leaks that might cause a fire and/or an explosion.
  • Never leave a brazier or coal fire burning inside the house overnight as it is a health hazard.
  • Never lock your door from the inside using a padlock. Use a shooter instead for easy unlocking should a fire occur.


The Fire Protection Association of South Africa has made suggestions on how to stay safe when stuck in a fire.

  • Crawl low in smoke.
  • Never open a door that is hot to the touch.
  • Wake every person in the house.
  • If your clothing catches fire stop, drop and roll. 
  • Have a safe place to meet outside the house.
  • Never re-enter the house for pets or personal belongings.
  • Tackle the fire if it is safe to do so.

subscribe Just R20 for the first month. Support independent journalism by subscribing to our digital news package.
Subscribe now

Would you like to comment on this article?
Sign up (it's quick and free) or sign in now.

Speech Bubbles

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.