27 Dec 2009

Less than four minutes to safely flee burning building

2:50 pm on 27 December 2009

A fire risk specialist says research on the time people have to get themselves out of burning homes safely indicates that a review of the materials used in household products is needed.

Ian Miller says during the 1970s, people had up to eight minutes to get out before what is known as flashover, when smoke and gases erupt.

That has now been reduced to about three and a half minutes, because so many contents of modern households are made of synthetic materials such as plastics and foams.

At the same time, Dr Miller says, New Zealanders are fatter and less fit than in previous years and are taking longer to get out of burning buildings.

Dr Miller says modern materials also produce noxious gases that can incapacitate within two or three breaths.

Along with a review of the materials that make up modern household contents, Dr Miller says every home should have working smoke alarms, a safety exit plan and fire suppression equipment such as an extinguisher.