Protect people at risk: Fire survival guidance – transport fire

Control Measure Knowledge

Calls to people that are trapped in or by transport fire may be received from the person involved or a third party. The same protect advice should be given to people at risk and to the third party.

Trapped in a road vehicle

People at risk may be trapped in a road vehicle that is on fire, this may be due to

  • A road traffic collision (RTC)
  • A mechanical or electrical failure meaning the doors or windows cannot be opened
  • Mobility issues of passengers within the vehicle

If they are not trapped due to their injuries but are unable to leave the vehicle via the door, other methods of escape may be possible based on the location of the fire.

Rear windows in small vehicles may be difficult to use as an exit due to the size of the window as well as the opening mechanisms. People in the rear of the vehicle may need to exit through the front windows, head restraints on the front seats may restrict their routes to exit the vehicle. Removing head restraints will not only remove this restriction but can also be used to break a window if necessary.

The same method of breaking a window contained within fire survival guidance – building fire should be used.

Some cars may have emergency release levers or latches within the boot which can be used to open it enabling people to escape. A boot latch is a basic hook and post construction which requires a cable that pulls the hook away from the post to open. Levers or cables may not always be visible and may be hidden underneath panels or material. Whilst the location of levers will vary across vehicle manufacturers the most common location is at the joint of the boots lid and the main body of the vehicle in the centre. A sharp pull on the lever or cable should release the latch and open the boot.

Windows at the rear of buses and coaches often have emergency exits and levers can be used to release the window. Glass hammers are also often available on buses and coaches and can be used to break the window.

If people are unable to evacuate from the vehicle, if possible the hazard warning lights should be switched on. Moving to the middle of the vehicle may help to minimise the risk from windows that have the potential to explode under extreme heat and may help to protect people at risk from coming into contact with doors or the frame of the vehicle which could be hot to touch.

If people are trapped by their injuries and unable to carry out any of the actions listed above fire control personnel may only be able to offer reassurance to people at risk until the arrival of operational personnel or other agencies.

Trapped on a rail system 

Newer passenger rail systems will have safety notices located at entrances and exits indicating what passengers should do in the event of an emergency. These instructions should be followed.

Some rail systems have an emergency intercom system which enables passengers to speak directly to the driver or the rail system control room. They should be identified by appropriate signage. Passengers should attempt to make contact via the intercom system as soon as a fire is discovered as this will enable the driver or the control room to initiate their emergency procedures.

Passengers should always follow instructions from on board staff, this could be the driver or other crew members.

If people are able to safely move away from the fire and into a different carriage, this should be encouraged.

Passengers should remain on a rail system where possible and evacuation should only be done in a safe, controlled way led by rail system staff. Unplanned evacuation could lead passengers to other risks outside of the train and advice should only be given to do this following consultation with the rail system control room if there is time, or if passengers face immediate threat from the fire.

Any additional or different instruction or guidance for passengers will be shared by the rail system control room with fire control personnel. These instructions will be specific to the known variables of the incident.

Trapped on a vessel

Passengers on vessels that have professional mariners on board should always follow the advice and instruction of the crew or captain. This includes container ships, passenger, commercial, entertainment and tourist vessels.

The crew will indicate when it is no longer safe to remain on the boat and entry into the water is required.

There may be occasions where calls are received from a member of the public on board a private or rented vessel such as a yacht or fishing boat and there are no professional mariners on board to give instruction or advice so they may look to fire control personnel to provide this.

When there is a fire on a vessel, people at risk should move as far away from the fire as possible and remain on the vessel with their life jackets on.

They should not enter a smoke filled space however if they are already in a smoke filled space they should stay low to the ground where the air may be clear of smoke and attempt to make their way to a space that is clear of smoke.

If a window needs to be broken, the same method of breaking a window contained within FSG – building fire should be used.

Where appropriate, doors or engine hatches should be kept closed where possible to starve the fire of oxygen.

People should try to get to the open deck at the top of the boat, this can also be referred to as topside. This gives the person at risk the opportunity to choose to enter the water if they are in immediate danger and cannot await rescue. If there is an explosion on board the vessel and the person at risk is topside, it also enables them to be thrown clear from the vessel and into the water.

Trapped on an aircraft

Passenger aircrafts have been designed and engineered to enable passengers to self-evacuate. This includes sufficient width and length of aisles, emergency exits and method of exit.

Passengers should always be informed to leave their belongings and follow the advice and instruction of the aircraft captain or crew.

Any additional or different instruction or guidance for passengers will be shared by the airport operations control centre with fire control personnel. These instructions will be specific to the known variables of the incident.

If passengers are physically trapped on a small or light aircraft that is on fire following a collision, fire control personnel may only be able to offer reassurance to casualties.

Tactical Actions