High-rise residents urged to evacuate when fire alarms sound

Published: 6th November 2009

Two recent high-rise building fires serve as a timely reminder to occupants of high-rise residential buildings not to be complacent when fire alarm systems activate, Minister for Emergency Services Steve Whan said today.

Mr Whan said it was vital that people acted quickly when they heard a building's fire alarms sound.

"In two recent high-rise fires - one last night in McClaren Street in North Sydney and one last week in Park Road , Hurstville - the majority of residents heeded the warning provided by the automatic fire alarm system and evacuated the building. Thankfully, the fires were extinguished quickly, but it could have easily been a very different situation.

 "Automatic fire alarm systems help save lives and property by providing an early warning in the event of a fire so that people can evacuate in time. Don't ignore the warning thinking it is a false alarm.

"If you're inside your unit you may not smell smoke or see flames until it is too late and you could find yourself trapped or unable to reach fire exits.

"It's vital that you respond quickly when the alarms sound. Ensure you know where the exits are and where to meet once you are out of the building. Never use the lifts if you do need to evacuate. Make sure you use the fire stairs and never prop them open as they are designed to keep the fire and smoke out of the stairwell. Most importantly, follow the instructions of firefighters when they arrive," Mr Whan said.

Mr Whan encouraged residents of high-rise buildings to be aware of their neighbours and to check on elderly neighbours during an evacuation.

"When you hear the fire alarm, phone Triple Zero immediately and evacuate the building. If you know your neighbours are home, particularly older people, knock on their door as you leave to make sure they evacuate too. If they are unable to evacuate without assistance, notify the arriving firefighters immediately of their location and unit number - firefighters will help them out of the building."

NSW Fire Brigades Commissioner Greg Mullins also reminded residents that they must not tamper with a building fire panel.

"The fire alarm control panel in high-rise buildings are an important tool for firefighters in identifying where the alarm has activated so they can quickly determine if there is a fire.

"The fire alarm control panel should only be re-set by a firefighter, and residents should concentrate on evacuating rather than adjusting the fire panel."