26 Jul 2015

'Jump from window' advice devastating - tenant

3:09 pm on 26 July 2015

A Housing New Zealand tenant says she was told to jump out of her two-storey window in the case of fire, after emergency escape ladders were removed from her Dunedin home.

Jodee Vince's Dunedin property.

Jodee Vince's Dunedin state house. Photo: Supplied

Jodee Vince said the ladders were taken off while her Pine Hill home was being painted last month. But they were never put back on.

When she asked why not, Ms Vince said Housing New Zealand told her they were no longer needed because smoke alarms had been installed.

"I was told that we were to just jump out the window as it would be better having a broke leg than being burnt," she said.

Ms Vince was recovering from back surgery and said she would not be able to do jump out and said she was "devastated" by the advice given.

"I want them put back for the safety of my children. Obviously our lives are not worth it and they just don't care," she added.

Labour's Dunedin North MP David Clark said he was aware of other Housing New Zealand tenants in Dunedin having their escape ladders removed and he was worried that the agency was cutting costs.

"If it wasn't such a serious matter it would be laughable. Smoke alarms might alert someone to a fire but you cannot climb down a smoke alarm to safety," he said.

Housing New Zealand said the ladders were not a legal requirement and some were being removed as part of general maintenance of properties because of health and safety and security issues.

"It is our policy to have fitted working smoke alarms in all bedrooms, hallways and living areas. This extensive coverage gives tenants good early warning of fire," a spokesman said.

He said there had been cases of people injuring themselves after falling off escape ladders but he could not provide Radio New Zealand with any figures on how people had done this.

He said Housing New Zealand would be looking into the advice given to Ms Vince.

"I'm not saying she's lying, but I doubt that advice was given. However, if it was it would be totally inappropriate advice and we will be looking into it," the spokesman added.