Plan your es­cape in case of a house fire

The New Zealand Fire Ser­vice’s mes­sage is sim­ple: Get out, stay out and then call 111.

The Tribune (NZ) - - BACKYARD BANTER -

Wak­ing up to screech­ing smoke alarms and your bed­room fill­ing with smoke is the stuff of night­mares.

But in New Zealand, house fires are all too com­mon – and all too dev­as­tat­ing. Last year, the New Zealand Fire Ser­vice at­tended more than 5000 house fires, some of them fa­tal.

But many of those fa­tal­i­ties could have been pre­vented with a lit­tle for­ward plan­ning. Here are some ways you can pre­pare for the worst:

HAVE AN AGREED SAFE MEET­ING PLACE

Your fam­ily’s es­cape plan starts with a safe meet­ing place. It might sound sim­ple, but it could save lives. In some cases, peo­ple who make it out of a house fire can’t find their fam­ily, so they go back into the burn­ing house only to never make it out again – when all along ev­ery­one is safe, they just didn’t meet at the same place.

Agree on a safe meet­ing place, such as be­side your let­ter­box or un­der the big tree out­side your house, that’s easy to find day or night and prefer­ably by the road so you can tell the fire ser­vice if any­one is miss­ing as soon as they ar­rive. And re­mem­ber: once you’re out, stay out.

CHECK YOUR SMOKE ALARMS

In 80 per cent of New Zealand’s fa­tal fires, smoke alarms are ei­ther not in­stalled or faulty. Smoke alarms save lives. It’s as sim­ple as that. If you don’t have any in­stalled, do it today – the New Zealand Fire Ser­vice will even in­stall them for you. But a smoke alarm is use­less if it doesn’t work, so check the bat­ter­ies reg­u­larly too (the be­gin­ning and end of day­light sav­ing is a good re­minder).

CHECK YOUR EX­ITS

Don’t rely on the ob­vi­ous ex­its to get you out safely. Try to plan two ways out of ev­ery room. Make sure that win­dows can be eas­ily opened, and al­ways keep keys in dead­locks. Smoke can ob­struct your vi­sion so be aware of the ob­sta­cles that might block the path to your near­est exit. Get your chil­dren in­volved by ask­ing them to draw a lay­out of your home in­clud­ing ar­rows where they can safely es­cape, and keep it on the fridge so it’s al­ways front-of-mind.

DON’T FOR­GET VUL­NER­A­BLE PEO­PLE

If a young, el­derly or phys­i­cally-im­paired per­son lives in your home, make sure your es­cape plan caters for them too. If you have time, don’t for­get your pets.

LEAVE EV­ERY­THING BE­HIND

In the event of a fire, don’t take any­thing with you; your life is more im­por­tant than per­sonal be­long­ings.

Close doors be­hind you to pre­vent the spread of fire, and get down, get low, get out – and stay out.

CALL 111

Once you get out­side, call 111 or ask a neigh­bour to.

To show you why you need an es­cape plan and a safe meet­ing place, The New Zealand Fire Ser­vice has just launched Es­cape My House, a 360-de­gree video ex­pe­ri­ence that gets you up close and per­sonal with a real house fire.

Con­fronting footage of a real house fire teaches view­ers how im­por­tant it is to have an es­cape plan, just in case the un­think­able hap­pens to them. To ex­pe­ri­ence it for your­self, visit es­cape­my­house.co.nz. From there, you can go on to eas­ily cre­ate your own cus­tomised es­cape plan us­ing the on­line Es­cape Plan­ner tool.

The New Zealand Fire Ser­vice has just launched Es­cape My House, a 360-de­gree video ex­pe­ri­ence of a real house fire.

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