Based on my experience on Wednesday night it has made me reflect on how complacent I have been about fire safety compared to how prepared I was in New Zealand. The following is to raise awareness and to hopefully help our families be better prepared.
On Wednesday night I awoke to the screams of ‘fire, fire’ so my wife and I quickly got dressed, grabbed our passports and ran for the door. Upon opening the door we were confronted with our neighbours door wide open with smoke pouring out of her apartment.
The power in her apartment had turned itself off so I used the light on my phone to see where the smoke was coming from. Long story short, her heater had caused her power board (multi plug) to melt and catch on fire. Unfortunately the power board was located under her sofa and the sofa had started to burn. We managed to get rid of any danger but did ask the fire department to send someone to check the apartment to ensure it was safe. Four Policeman arrived on the scene very quickly and a Fire Representative arrived shortly after to inspect the area and deem it safe.
Lessons from the experience:
- If you are using a heater, plug it directly into a wall socket. Do not use a power board (multi plug). The Fire Representative said it is a leading cause of call outs and was a common problem in Hong Kong. The power board (multi plug) cannot handle the power drawn and will melt and if left unnoticed will burn and start a fire.
- Our neighbour did not have a smoke detector/alarm which would have alerted her to the situation much earlier. She was working in her office (small bedroom next to the lounge) so was not alerted to the smoke until she went to turn off the heater before she went to bed.
- My wife and I were not prepared and hadn’t really thought about what to take. We only had time to grab some warm clothes and our passports (I also grabbed my laptop but don’t really want to admit that)!
Some questions to ask yourself as a family re fire safety:
- Do you have an evacuation plan where everyone knows where to go when they leave the building and which route to take to get there?
- Do you have any smoke detectors in your apartment?
- Do you have a fire extinguisher (especially to deal with an electrical fire)?
- Do you know the emergency number for Hong Kong (999)?
- Have you thought about what you need to take with you if you have to get out of the apartment quickly?
- Do you know where the fire alarm switch is on your floor of the apartment?
- Do you know where the extinguisher or water hose is on your floor of the apartment?
- Have the staff in your building been trained for a fire emergency? (it was very evident that our staff had not)
If you answered ‘no’ to any of the above questions do please take the time to review your fire safety practices and make the necessary changes or improvements.
My point of writing this blog isn’t to assume that I am an expert on fire safety, far from it. It comes from a position where I realised on Wednesday night just how vulnerable we are. I was genuinely frightened which in turn made me realise just how ill prepared/complacent I have been, around fire safety, compared to when I lived in NZ. It was also the shock of realising just how quickly things could have gone terribly wrong for the children and adults on our floor, and indeed, in our building.
There is not a culture of having smoke alarms in apartments here in Hong Kong which, upon reflection, amazes me as we are all very vulnerable as most of us live in high rise apartments with limited exits. If nothing else, as a result of reading this entry, please remember to plug your heater directly into the wall (rather than into a multi plug power board) and seriously consider having smoke alarms/carbon monoxide alarms installed.