Experience a real house fire through 360 video & virtual reality

Submitted by The New Zealand Fire Service

  • The New Zealand Fire Service calls on all members of the public to try, “Escape My House”, its new 360˚ video experience to escape a real house
  • It can be viewed online or on mobile, with an option to choose  virtual reality, at escapemyhouse.co.nz
  • An escape plan and safe meeting point can save lives when there’s a fire.

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˚ 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 [i].

Kennedy added, “We want to help people understand they need an escape plan and a safe meeting place for their 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 to show the public what actually happens in a house fire now and why they need to be prepared to survive.”

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