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The City of Portland, Oregon

Fire & Rescue

Always Ready, Always There

Phone: 503-823-3700

Fax: 503-823-3710

55 SW Ash Street, Portland, OR 97204

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SafetyTIPS: High Rise Safety

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High Rise Safety

Fatal fires in high rise structures have prompted Americans to rethink fire safety.  A key to fire safety for those who live and work in these types of structures is to practice fire safety and prevention behaviors specific to high rises.

To prevent the loss of life and property in high rise fires, follow these simple safety steps:


  • Do not lock fire exits, doorways, halls, or stairways.  Fire doors provide a way out during a fire and can actually slow the spread of fire and smoke. Do not prop stairway or other fire doors open.
  • Get to know your building evacuation plan. If the fire alarm sounds, would you know what to do? Plan and practice your escape plan so it’s second nature.
  • It is the responsibility of the building manager to posts evacuation plans.  Make sure the plans are viewable in high traffic areas such as lobbies.
  • Do you know what your building’s fire alarm sound like? Learn the sound of the alarm.
  • Post emergency numbers near all telephones.
  • Ensure that nothing is blocking the fire safety systems.
  • Report any sign of damage or malfunction of the fire safety systems to the building management.


  • Do not assume anyone else has already called 9-1-1.
  • Call 9-1-1 immediately to report an emergency. The 9-1-1 dispatcher will ask questions regarding the emergency. Stay calm!


  • Before attempting to exit your apartment or office, feel the door with the back of your hand. If the door feels warm to the touch, do not open it. Stay where you are!
  • Stuff the cracks around the door with towels, rags, bedding or tape and cover vents to keep smoke out.
  • If there is a phone in the room where you are trapped, call 9-1-1 to tell them exactly where you are located. Do this even if you can see fire apparatus on the street below.
  • Wait at a window and signal for help with a flashlight, waving a sheet, and yell.
  • If possible, open the window at the top and bottom, but do not break it, you may need to close the window if smoke rushes in.
  • Be patient. Rescuing all the occupants of a highrise building can take several hours.
  • If you feel the door and it is cool to the touch and you are going to attempt to open the door, brace your body against the door while staying low to the floor and slowly open it a crack. Check for the presence of smoke or fire in the hallway.
  • If there is no smoke in the hallway or stairwells, follow your building’s evacuation plan. 


  • Once you are out of the building, STAY OUT! Don’t go back inside for any reason.
  • Notify fire personnel if you know of anyone trapped in the building.
  • Only enter when fire personnel tells you it is safe to do so.


No matter where you live, always install smoke alarms on every level of your home. Test them monthly and change the batteries at least once a year. 


It’s not just about saving lives; it’s about saving your life.

March 22, 2010   

Developing PF&R's Roadmap for the Future

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Portland Fire and Rescue (PF&R) wishes to thank citizens who recently completed the Strategic Planning Development online survey.  Your feedback is a critical part of the development process as PF&R defines its future direction for the next five years. Your input will help PF&R identify and understand critical issues in order to better serve the public, our partners, and our employees.

2010-2015 Strategic Planning Steering Committee Meeting #2 Minutes are now available.  For the remainder of March  2010, PF&R will complete focus groups for internal and external stakeholders and  compile data from the online surveys.  Starting in April, 2010, PF&R will begin a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Challenges analysis.

You can continue to follow the plan's development and get regular updates through PF&R's E-newsletter and on our Fire Blog, Facebook, and Twitter accounts.

March 22, 2010

Fire Fighter Safety Blog: Company Officer

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Fire fighters face an unusual and demanding set of circumstances every time they show up at a working structure fire.  The contents of the building are often unknown, without searching the building it is often impossible to tell if it is occupied, and the extent of the fire and its effect on structural stablity is hard to guage. While it is naturally our first impulse to grab a hoseline and head into the building, we need to evaluate our situation with more of an eye toward safety. 

Last time I wrote about the importance of considering 'Risk vs. Benefit', risking a little to save a little and risking a lot to save a lot.  Every fire fighter has the responsibility for their own safety - but the Company Officer - the Fire Lieutenant or Fire Captain in charge of the crew has the responsibility of looking out for the safety of his or her entire crew.  A typical fire fighting crew (the ones you see riding on the big red fire engines and ladder trucks) are composed of three fire fighters and one company officer.  The company officer is the foreman; the one who calls the shots, leads the action, and is responsible for the safety of those assigned to his or her crew.  The company officer must constantly evaluate the structure, the viability of operations, and the integrity of the crew - a while the work is being done.  They act as a safety officer for the fire fighters immediately assigned to them.  The company officer should not be involved in the hands-on portion of the work, they direct the crew and keep an eye out for danger.  This role is extremely important in the ever-changing unpredictable world of fire fighting. Worsening smoke conditions, signs of structural instability, and crew fatigue are just three of the hundreds of things the company officer has to keep tabs on. If the officer realizes that conditions have changed for the worse, or the crew's firefighting efforts are not making headway, it is their job to communicate that to the chief officer who has overall command of the incident.  A re-assignment or re-evaluation of priorities may be in order. 

Next time we'll discuss the job of the Incident Safety Officer.

Until then - stay safe!

March 23, 2010