The New Zealand Fire Service today launched a world-first initiative – a 360 degree and virtual reality (VR) experience – Escape My House available online now. For the first time ever, the public can experience a real house fire first-hand and, along the way, learn why they need an escape plan.
New Zealand Fire Service Station Officer and current Training Officer, Chris Kennedy, commented:
“Until you experience a fire, you’ve got no idea what it’s like. The Escape My House VR activity allows members of the public to see and hear what a house fire is truly like for themselves. We don’t want to scare people but it’s an activity to teach others how to get out safely and quickly. It also shows why we all need working smoke alarms, a clear escape plan and a safe meeting place.”
The Escape My House VR experience is all real video footage from an actual house burning down. The house in Palmerston North, where all filming took place, was a derelict house donated to the New Zealand Fire Service for training purposes. The fire was ignited by a clothes horse left too close to a heater and catching alight, one of the most common ways house fires are started. No fire accelerants were used on the walls or ceiling. Everything catches fire exactly as it would in a real situation. The 360-degree cameras set up to capture the fire had to be proofed to withstand extreme heats, between 300-600 degrees Celsius, which has never been done before.
Kennedy said, “We think people will be surprised by the speed of the fire. The VR experience really shows you how quickly it all happens. For the first 30 seconds you might not even know about a house fire, then suddenly you’re hit with thick black smoke, you can’t see and you’ve got to get out straight away.”
House fires become un-survivable in less than five minutes, so people need to know how to get out fast. Recent research shows that 61% of Kiwis claim to have an escape plan; however, only 29% have a detailed plan with multiple exits, as most people think it will be easy enough to get out the front door. This data also shows that less than half are confident that everyone in their household knows where their safe meeting place is.
Kennedy added, “We want to help people understand they need an escape plan and a safe meeting place for the own home. So many people don’t realise how such a small thing can save lives. We’ve had terrible situations when people will get out of their house fire but can’t find the rest of their family or flatmates, so they run back in to help them and unfortunately don’t make it back out. When, all along, the others had escaped but gone to a different location. It’s an awful tragedy that can be avoided if people have an escape plan and agreed safe meeting place.
“We have the tool the show the public what actually happens in a house fire now and why they need to be prepared to survive.”
People are prompted to enter their address when commencing the Escape My House VR activity. Once they reach the end and have made it out of the house safely onto the street, they will be confronted with an image of their own home burning down in front of them, pulled in via Google StreetView.
They will then be asked to make their own escape plan for their homes. The Escape My House experience flows into an online Escape Planner Tool that utilises the mobility of people’s smartphones, and prompts them to walk from room-to-room checking smoke alarms, clearing windows and exit paths and, most importantly, setting a safe meeting place.
The Escape Planner Tool automatically generates an easy to-do list, and people can choose a completion date to address any issues that could prevent them and loved ones safely escaping a fire.
The New Zealand Fire Service’s Escape My House Safety Tips:
- Make sure everyone in the household knows the safe meeting place so you know if everyone has safely escaped
- Have an escape plan to get everyone quickly to the safe meeting place
- Your escape plan must start with having working smoke alarms to alert you to a fire
- Have more than one exit from every room. Be aware of what obstacles are in your way that could block your escape path
- In the event of a fire leave your possessions behind, just get out fast! Close doors to prevent the spread of the fire
- Get down, get low, get out and stay out
Escape My House is best experienced through a VR headset like the Google Cardboard, using a smartphone with headphones. It also works on smartphones without a VR headset like Google Cardboard. It can also be viewed and experienced on a PC although a VR headset will make the experience more intimate.
To experience the New Zealand Fire Service’s Escape My House tool, visit: http://www.escapemyhouse.co.nz/
TVNZ are also giving away 4,500 Google Cardboard headsets if you enter in your details over at: https://www.tvnz.co.nz/new-zealand-fire-service