Stop, Drop, Cover, and Roll
By Lieutenant Scot Best
July 11, 2022

Each year more than 15,000 people are seriously burned when their clothes catch on fire. In more than half of the incidents, flammable liquids or vapors were present on, or around the person's clothing. But it can happen in many ways. A person's loose sleeve may catch fire on a hot stove. Someone may be working with gasoline or some other flammable liquid and then light a cigarette. They might spray lighter fluid on a smoldering barbecue fire and the resulting flames could catch their clothes on fire. When a person's clothing catches on fire, action must be instinctive and immediate. There is NO time to think.

“Stop, drop, cover and roll” has been one of the most recognizable fire safety messages for decades. It is important to stress, especially to children, that stop, drop, and roll is only appropriate when your clothing or body is on fire. Unfortunately, it is common for people, especially children, to mistakenly believe that they should utilize stop, drop, and roll as a reaction to all fire situations. If a fire occurs in a home or a building, they need to know that getting out fast and staying out is the priority.

To minimize a burn injury when your clothes catch fire, STOP, DROP and ROLL. Burns are among the most painful of injuries, and the third leading cause of unintentional deaths in the United States. The hands, groin, face and lungs are at the greatest risk because they are delicate structures and easily injured. The healing process is slow and painful, resulting in enormous personal suffering.

Certain types of clothing are less flammable and resist flames more than other types of clothing. Heavier clothing, fabrics with a loose fit or fluffy pile will ignite more readily than tight-fitting, dense fabric clothing. Synthetic fibers, such as nylon, once ignited, melt and burn causing serve burns. Natural fibers, such as cotton and wool, tend to burn more slowly than synthetic fibers. However, fibers that combine both synthetic and natural fibers may be of greater hazard than either fabric alone. Clothing should not be sprayed with flame retardant chemicals.

Make sure you and your family are prepared for what to do in case a clothing fire occurs:

• If your clothes catch fire, stop, drop, and roll. DO NOT RUN! Stop immediately, drop to the ground, and cover your face with your hands. Roll over and over or back and forth until the fire is out.
• If you cannot “stop, drop, and roll”, keep a blanket or towel nearby to help you or others smother flames. Cover the person with a blanket to smother the fire.
• If you use a wheelchair, scooter, or other device and are able to get to the floor, lock the device first to stay in place before getting on the floor to roll until the flames are out.
• Use cool water to treat any resulting burns immediately for 3-5 minutes. Cover with a clean, dry cloth. Do not apply creams, ointments, sprays, or other home remedies. Get medical help right away by calling 911.