Training facility highlights need to plan exit strategy in case of house blaze

“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.

Phil Mulligan, fire behaviour trainer, in the training house
Phil Mulligan, fire behaviour trainer, in the training house

It comes as part of the service's 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, has been demonstrating the disorientating effects smoke can have during a house blaze using the service's own training facility, which can be filled with synthetic smoke.

Crews get kitted up

He 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 importance of knowing your property and the different routes you can escape a fire is essential for your own safety."

Phil Mulligan, fire behaviour trainer

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 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.

Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service's training house can be filled with synthetic smoke

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.

“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 and click on the Living Alone link.

In the event of an emergency, always dial 999.

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