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Your possessions or your life: A stark warning

Published: Wednesday, 18 July, 2018

Cluttered corridors can claim lives – that’s the stark warning from Stroud District Council and Gloucestershire Fire & Rescue Service.

The council’s new fire safety film is aimed at getting the message across to residents who live in accommodation with communal hallways not to store anything in them.

The two minute film, made in collaboration with Gloucestershire Fire & Rescue Service, recreates what it would be like to try and escape from a building where a fire has broken out.

After a smoke machine filled a disused sheltered housing unit with dense clouds of smoke, participants from the council’s housing team and councillors - who both had the benefit of breathing equipment - had to find their way out to safety.

It was a simple task but hindered by the thick smoke, it proved impossible.

“Getting out sounded simple, but once the flat was filled with smoke it was really disorientating,” said Cllr Mattie Ross, chair of Stroud District Council’s Community Services and Licensing Committee, and former Housing Committee chair.

“Once I started walking to where I thought the door was, I realised I’d lost it. Although it was a simulation it really was quite frightening, and this was without the heat and toxic fumes of a real fire.”

Cllr Chas Townley, who was recently elected chair of the council’s Housing Committee, added: “It is so important that hallways are kept clear of any obstruction and this video is a stark reminder of that.”

To make the situation more realistic, once the participants were inside the flat, items including a shoe rack, a walking frame and a plant were placed in the corridor.

“We know that people find it tempting to store items like children’s bikes and pushchairs outside their flats, but if there was a fire you would have zero visibility – you or your neighbour would likely trip over a bike that was kept in the corridor, and when you’re trying to escape every second counts,” explained Alan Coates, the council’s Principal Health & Safety Officer.

“Like it says in the film – it could come down to your possessions or your life.”

Sally Waldron, Prevention and Protection Manager for Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service said:

“It’s really important people understand the need to keep communal areas free from objects.  It means that, in the event of an emergency, people don’t have items in their way which could cause trip hazards.  It’s equally important to keep fire doors shut – they’re there for a reason.  This exercise was an opportunity for us to work with partners to show just how disorientating smoke can be, let alone while trying to navigate past objects in hallways.”

Stroud District Council owns 153 blocks of flats and 25 sheltered housing schemes, all of which have shared corridors and are fitted with fire doors.

“We hope that the film will demonstrate why we operate a `zero tolerance’ policy regarding items stored in communal corridors,” said Alan.

The film can be seen on the council’s newly-launched Facebook page www.facebook.com/StroudDistrictCouncil , Twitter account @StroudDC and on YouTube

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