Category Archives: Fire

Fire safety – preparedness for fire

Forgotten disasters: the 1935 London fire that sparked the world’s first 999 emergency phone line

HAPPY BIRTHDAY – the world’s first 999 emergency phone service celebrates its 80th birthday!

Something has just gone badly wrong and you pick up the phone and dial 999 in a real emergency. How simple and brilliant is that! Take a moment to actually just think about this. When you are in real need, the emergency services will respond. They save the lives of countless people every day. It’s just become ‘normal’ and so it’s easy to forget that it wasn’t always so: turn back to clock to a …

Forgotten Disaster: 1935 Wimpole Street London

A fire breaks out on the ground floor at a doctor’s house in 27 Wimpole Street, Marylebone – incidentally the same address (27A) made famous in George Bernard Shaw’s play Pygmalion (1913, characters Professor Higgins, Eliza Doolittle).

source CC: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/5c/42/43/5c424310be25d195293c5dd9a541d0aa--fire-dept-fire-department.jpgHowever, on that fateful early morning on November 10th, drama turned to tragedy when help arrived too late for those trapped in the upper rooms.  A milkman on his rounds noticed dense smoke and ran to the nearest street fire alarm, smashing the glass and pulling the alarm.  Running back he stood by helplessly as an elderly woman leaned out from the window shouting “for God’s sake get the fire brigade” before disappearing amid smoke and flames.

A neighbour attempted to dial through to the local telephone exchange and was unable to reach an operator. Eventually the fire service did arrive but sadly too late for the victims Mrs Franklin, wife of the doctor, Miss Brook her nice and a cook, a housemaid and a kitchen maid. Also remembered must be the hero of the tragedy, a fireman by the name of Leonard Tobias who carried on searching the smoke-filled building ‘long after his men had collapsed’. He was later killed in the line of duty.

Take a look at how the incident was reported in widely different ways, for example in The Spectator and on the other side of the globe in The Courier-Mail, Brisbane:

999 history SPECTATOR

999 history courier brisbane

 

But the story does not end there, thankfully.

The caller, Norman Macdonald, a dentist living in the house opposite who had been held in a queue by the Welbeck telephone exchange was so outraged that he wrote a letter to the editor of The Times1. In response to the letter and public outcry, the Government set up a committee to establish a dedicated emergency service. At the time when there were only 3 million home telephones and most people would use coin-operated red telephone boxes, the number 999 was chosen because it was easy to dial.

For a real look into what actually happens today when you dial 999, take a look at this video from Northants Emergencies

And please THINK before you dial 999

 

THANK YOU emergency services and HAPPY 8oth BIRTHDAY 999.

Monika

 

 

1. “It all started with us” The Times (archive)

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Safe evacuation – tall buildings, tower blocks: why Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans and Emergency Preparedness tools are essential

This continues the series on safe evacuation: what exactly does safe self-evacuation look like and on mass evacuation (tip: follow the ‘Safe Evacuation’ blog category). / post updated 11July2017

Skyscrapers, tall buildings, tower blocks – they’re not the same in many respects1 . Each fire is unique. Yet here I generalize, looking at it from a residents or visitors perspective which is not so different both today and in the past. The basic impact on people is the same: they need to

GET OUT – STAY OUT – CALL FOR HELP

…and be able to receive it in a timely and effective manner…

 

Absolutely tragic (14June2017) #GrenfellTower, London

 

Are you a resident or visitor to tall buildings? Then knowing (not assuming you know!) the buildings (and your own!) fire plan and safe evacuation procedure is key ….

 

 … for consequences can be tragic as illustrated by the UK’s worst tower block fire  2013, Lakanal House in Camberwell which was caused by a faulty television set killing six people. A few years later a faulty tumble dryer caused a massive blaze in another tall building, this time in Shepherd’s Bush:

Thankfully no one was seriously hurt thanks to the quick action by the Fire and Rescue Services and campaigns are underway to identify hazardous goods and pull them off the market. Yet more could be done and that’s where promoting Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans and having the right preparedness tools comes in. This affects not just London; tall buildings are many in the UK and with many more to come. Sadly the above is now outdated as the worst disaster now is #GrenfellTower in Kensington and Chelsea, 13/14 June 2017.   

  While we wait for standards and regulations to change…..

Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans and Preparedness Tools make a lot of sense

Did you know that there are a lot of useful free templates out there that you can use to develop your own Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan? In the UK, by law such so called PEEPs must be issued by employers2  but they are equally useful irrespective of dis/ability.  Evacuation may happen because of security issues as well as ‘natural’ causes but for the moment let’s stay with the fire safety theme. Picture yourself on the 14th floor (or make that 42nd floor if you want or need to notch it up), there is a rapidly spreading fire and you must get to a place of safety but can’t take any lifts, there is smoke, alarms and sirens are going off and there are lots of other people (family, friends, neighbours, strangers), chaos and panic.

What are you going to do? How are you going to get out from a tall building and what do you need to do so safely?

Can you simply walk out or would an evacuation chair or a so called Patient Transport  Evacuation Sheet be useful? A home emergency kit  or so called GoBag you take with you is a good idea as is having a basic Home Fire Safety Pack as a minimum. Specialised first aid for burns is another key topic you will want to look at as it is not usually included in ‘regular’ first aid.  Don’t go overboard though and match the tools you chose to the skill set you have. Upgrading your first aid training is highly recommended as is actually practising your personal emergency evacuation plan. Dry runs are not only fun, but help you prepare in a very active way, showing you what works and what needs improving. After all, your life may depend on it.

Emergency Preparedness is the ultimate confidence builder and a race where all win. Start today! TallBuildingEvacuation_EVAQ8Have a great week and thanks for stopping by.

Monika

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1 terminology varies widely all depending on who you ask.  For example, the Emporis Standards Committee,, a leading database for building information worldwide, defines a high rise building as a multi-story structure between 35-100 meters tall and a skyscraper as a multi-story building with an architectural height of at least 100m. A tower block on the other hand can simply be a ‘tall modern building containing numerous floors of offices or flats according to the Cambridge English Dictionary Neither what happens to the underground portion of tall buildings nor the multi-purpose nature of many modern tall buildings and the respective challenges this produces  is  touched upon 2 if their Fire Safety and Health and Safety assessments have identified persons with special needs under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and the Fire (Scotland) Act 2005

Safe Evacuation – what exactly does safe self evacuation look like?

Part 1 – Self-Evacuation (home)

What exactly is a ‘safe evacuation’? That depends of course on circumstances but the short answer is:

know your safe evacuation route, grab your Emergency Kit, get out – stay out – call for help

The long answer is a bit more complicated but actually quite interesting. So, let’s start at the very beginning with

What is an emergency evacuation and when does it happen?

An emergency evacuation is the immediate and urgent movement of people out of harm’s way to a safe location, away from threats or hazards (more see hazards and risks – what’s the difference).

Examples of emergency evacuations range from a small scale building evacuation to the large scale evacuation of an entire town or district. Reasons for an emergency evacuation include small and large incidents that may trigger fire or a spill, attacks or other security violation such as bomb threats. In addition there are disasters such as severe weather, storms, flooding, earthquakes, tsunami, volcanic eruptions, wildfires and also health related incidents such as an epidemic or pandemic.

Fire Drills and small scale Emergency Evacuation

First, a bit of comedy with Fa-fa-fa-fire! – Fawlty Towers

With the above in mind, Alex Gleeman has an excellent article titled Five ways to avoid the Fawlty Towers fire drill debacle in Health and Safety News which I encourage you to read but in this blog I want to focus on the ‘safe evacuation’ bit – or rather, complete lack thereof.

In the clip, Basil apologetically orders his returning guests to assemble in the lobby because “..something I ought to mention” which after escalating confusion eventually turns into raising the alarm ‘fa-fa-fa-FIRE!” causing the two elderly ladies to almost jump out of their skins, Polly subsequently ushering everyone out. Everyone? Going where exactly and for how long? What happens next to the evacuees? Thankfully it’s a pleasant day judging by the sunshine visible beyond the entrance and everyone’s fair weather attire. Perhaps they all simply wander down to the local pub and fortify themselves while all this blows over and they can return to their rooms at Fawlty Towers.

If you are a guest staying at a hotel, do you check and memorise your safe evacuation procedure? How about at your place of work or at home? Would you know how to safely get out by two different routes, your primary and secondary escape paths? Day 5 of this year’s September is Preparedness Month 2016 campaign #30days30waysUK was on #PlanYourEscape.

Day14 #30days30waysUK discussed that emergencies not only happen during the day. You may need to evacuate in the middle of the night. There may be hazards such as smoke, broken glass, debris or rubble you may only dimly be aware of. There may be a power cut.

 

It makes sense to be better prepared for ‘self-evacuation’

  • make your home ‘safe evacuation plan’ with primary and secondary escape routes from every room and share it with everyone in your household
  • under your bed, put a pair of sturdy shoes and a torch
  • have an emergency kit (i.e. GoBag) for safe evacuation that you can grab at a moment’s notice
  • practise your plan

And before I leave you, here is an excellent video from Canada that demonstrates the importance of a fire escape plan.

Self-evacuation is not just important at home but also at your place of work or study; more about that next time.

Have a great week. Be prepared, not scared.

Monika

The ‘evacuation’ series continues with posts on mass evacuation and a special look at tall buildings evacuation. Follow blog category ‘Safe Evacuation’ on the right hand navigation.

 thank you for sharing!

For more EVAQ8 blog simply use the right hand navigation. For emergency kits and practical resources use the top navigation. For FREE resources head over to our Preparedness Hub and find out why we use humour. If you like this post, please share it to help raise awareness for Emergency and Disaster Preparedness. Thank you!

Find EVAQ8 on social media, like and follow us!

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