Residents urged to plan house fire exit routes

“Knowing how to safely get out of your home in the case of a fire can be the difference between life and death” is the stark message from Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service’s Phil Mulligan.

It comes as part of our latest Living Alone campaign, aimed at making sure everyone is aware of the exit routes should such an event occur in their own home.  

In the past five years, there have been a total of 741 accidental house fires across Staffordshire within properties where the occupier lived alone and was aged over 45. Sadly, 13 of these fires proved to be fatal.

Phil, who is a Learning and Development trainer within the service, said: “Even the smallest of fires can escalate rapidly as it comes into contact with various items and materials in your household.

“Within minutes, the visibility in your home can vanish, and if you don’t know your way out, there’s a slim chance of you finding it while you are effectively blindfolded.”

The video below, captured in the service’s smokehouse facility at our headquarters in Pirehill, demonstrates the difficulty faced when attempting to exit a smoke-logged flat. 

Phil said: “As you can see, the importance of knowing your property and the different routes you can escape a fire is essential for your own safety.

“If you can gauge where you are by referencing objects and rooms, like a table or sofas, you can begin to visualise a plan as to the closest point of exit.”

“This is why it is vital for everyone to ensure you are aware of the objects and layout of your home.

“If you can tell where you are by feeling with your hands and feet, you stand a better chance of getting out alive.”

Phil, who has over 20 years of experience in dealing with the most severe house fires, now teaches firefighters how to navigate the disorientating environment.

These crews will often enter these smoke-logged properties with a thermal imaging device, as seen in the video, and will attempt to locate any heat signatures and extract people who may be trapped.

They will enter these buildings in breathing apparatus to protect them from smoke inhalation, in the hope that they can fight the fire as quickly as possible and ventilate excess smoke from the building.

Phil added: “If possible, keep the doors within your exit route closed to prevent potential toxic fumes from spreading to all areas of the property and disabling your exit routes.

“If your smoke alarms are tested regularly and working, you know your exit routes and you take extra precautions when handling anything that has the potential to cause fire, you are helping to protect yourselves and others from the devastating consequences fire can have.

“Those who live alone are at a higher risk, so it’s important that the community and the service each do their part to ensure we protect and prevent each other from falling victim to fire in the home.”

To check your risk or that of someone you know visit Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service’s website and click on the Living Alone link. 

In the event of an emergency, always dial 999.

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Staffordshire Fire & Rescue Service

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In an emergency call 999. General enquiries call 0300 330 1000.