IT takes just three breaths of toxic smoke to render you unconscious and if you are not rescued you will be dead in two to three minutes.
That’s the stark message fire chiefs are using to drive home the importance of having a working smoke alarm.
During the last financial year, 142 house fires where dealt with by Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service where smoke alarms didn’t activate for whatever reason – two people died and 34 were injured.
Now the campaign #ticktocktest has been launched to urge people to test their smoke alarms as they put their clocks forward this weekend.
And to show just how quickly smoke can overcome you, and how important it is to have a planned escape route, members of the media were invited along to the service’s training centre at Barmston Mere in Washington.
We were kitted out in full safety gear to experience two scenarios of how quickly toxic smoke can envelop you in a fire, and how it can dramatically reduce your visibility and make an escape difficult.
Smoke alarms can be the difference between life and death.Group Manager Dave Jefferson
The first scenario saw bales of straw and clean timber being set alight in the breathing apparatus training building. We knelt on the floor, then lay down as the smoke filled the room from the ceiling down. Then we were told to take a deep breath and stand up. The heat was crippling and it was difficult to keep your eyes open. We stood for a moment before the doors opened and we got down on our hands and knees to crawl outside into the fresh air.
The next scenario saw us go into a house filled with cosmetic smoke. It was impossible to see anything as we entered a side door and had to negotiate a course that led us up the stairs and through a serious of rooms before finding out way down another set of stairs and out through a different exit.
It was almost unimaginable to see how we could have coped had the two scenarios been put together, as they are in a real fire, with smoke and heat and little to no visibility.
Group Manager Dave Jefferson told the Echo how most people think they would wake up in a fire, when, in reality you would “drown” in toxic smoke.
“Smoke alarms can be the difference between life and death – but only of they are working,” he said. “Also ensure you have an escape plan in the event of a fire in your home and make sure everyone who lives there knows it.”