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This is what you should do if there’s a fire in your apartment block.

The catastrophic fire in London’s Grenfell Tower has shocked the world. Already 12 people are confirmed to have died. The death toll is expected to rise significantly.

Investigations are underway into what caused the tower to turn into an inferno. The 24-storey building dates back to 1974, but the outside was re-clad just last year, and many people are already blaming the cladding for the fire spreading so quickly.

Some witnesses are reporting that residents were told to stay put in their apartments. Others are saying many smoke alarms weren’t working. One former resident says he never did an evacuation drill in the two and a half years he lived there.

In the light of the tragedy, Mamamia asked fire services in Victoria and NSW for some advice, should people ever find themselves facing a fire in their own homes.

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Twelve people are confirmed dead after the Grenfell disaster. Source: Getty

Firstly, what should people do when they realise there’s a fire somewhere in their apartment block? Should they always immediately evacuate via the fire stairs?

If it’s safe, yes, according to the Chief Superintendent for Community Safety & Research with Fire & Rescue NSW, Jeremy Fewtrell.

“Fire stairs are designed to provide a safe environment that will lead you to a safe place away from the building,” he points out.

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Commander Mark Carter, from Victoria’s Metropolitan Fire and Emergency Services Board, says some high-rise apartments have been designed with refuges and/or smoke lobbies on specific floors. That means full evacuation isn’t necessary.

In most cases, a full evacuation won't be necessary. Source: Getty

As for the roof, Carter says it should only be used as a “last resort”, if people can’t reach the stairs.

“There is no means of escape if the area is compromised,” he adds.

But what about if the fire is on a lower floor and people can’t get to the fire stairs?

“Close all windows and doors to stop the smoke entering your apartment,” Fewtrell says.

“Call the fire services on 000 and tell them there is a fire in your apartment block. Tell them your apartment number and that you are unable to get out of your apartment safely, and then follow any advice given to you.”

Carter explains there’s a level of fire resistance in between floors and apartments in apartment blocks.

He advises that if the façade of the building is on fire, people should keep down low.

“Stay away from windows and balconies,” he adds.

So what should people buy to prepare themselves for a fire in their home?

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Carter says people can buy domestic fire extinguishers and fire blankets to deal with small fires, which often start in the kitchen. Small dry powder fire extinguishers are suitable for small electrical and flammable liquid fires, and fire blankets are suitable for small fires on the stove.

Fire extinguishers and blankets should be left near the kitchen door, at least a metre from the stove. But not everyone should try to fight a fire in their home.

Many house fires begin in the kitchen. Source: iStock

“If the fire is small in size, you are a capable person and have the right equipment then you can attempt to put it out using an appropriate extinguisher or fire blanket,” Carter says.

“Alternatively, for a large fire or one producing lots of smoke, or if you aren’t capable or don’t have the right equipment, you should collect the children and evacuate the building immediately and call 000.”

Fewtrell stresses that people should have a suitable number of working smoke alarms installed. They should also know what they would do if a fire broke out.

“Familiarise yourself with the exit points in your building, develop a home escape plan from your apartment and practise it regularly.”