Hazardous Dollhouse Teaches Fire Safety

Fire safety is drilled into us from a young age. And for good reason, too, because fire hazards are everywhere in the average home. Even a small fire can turn devastatingly dangerous in a matter of minutes. But how do you get kids to really pay attention to scary (and often boring) adult concepts? You can teach a kid to stop, drop, and roll until you’re blue in the face and still might not drive home the importance of fire prevention. Subjects like this call for child-sized visual aids that ignite imaginations.

That’s exactly what firefighters in Poznań, Poland did in collaboration with mlabs, a local software company. They built a mobile, interactive fire safety education tool that simulates common household fire hazards in great detail (translated). This is easily the most tricked-out dollhouse we’ve ever seen. The many different hazard scenarios are controlled via touchscreen using a custom-built application. At the tap of a button, the house becomes a total death trap. The lamp-lit hazards glow realistically and with varied intensity, and there is actual smoke coming out of them that triggers smoke detectors. Cameras embedded throughout the house provide a first-person view of the terror on a nearby monitor.

Almost no room is safe for the figurine family that lives inside this intricately detailed 1:12 scale dwelling. Dad’s in the kitchen standing idly by while food scorches on the stove. Grandma’s sitting on her bed upstairs, her forgotten cigarette burning a hole in the duvet. Daughter is overloading the electrical outlets in her bedroom with all her gizmos. Smoldering coals have spilled out from the toppled stove in the utility room.

This isn’t the first smart dollhouse we’ve seen, but it’s probably the most intriguing. The fire safety dollhouse was on display this week at POL-EKO-SYSTEM, an annual environmental fair in Poznań. Nowhere near Poland? Check out the video after the break.

Thanks for the tip, [Radomir]!

20 thoughts on “Hazardous Dollhouse Teaches Fire Safety

  1. Nicely done, but the idea isn’t anything new. This is exactly how the cabin crewa are trained for emergencies since 1960’s i think. They are being put into a full-size cabin mock-up and confronted with variety of simulated scenarios including evac, decompression and fires in places like galley, toilet or overhead bin. Some of these are actually real, gas-fueled fires in a well prepared spot that you have to approach and extinguish with onboard equipment. All that in a smoke, low light and wearing a smoke hood.

  2. So something I’ve often wondered: (how) do overloaded electrical sockets actually cause fires?
    I live in the UK, so every mains plug is fused, every multiway extension is fused, the ring has a breaker on it, and the cable has negligable heating even at significant over current, yet every fire safety thing seems to say it’s a common way to start a household fire, and the only failure mode i have thought of is cable heating or if the plug or socket is making an inadequate connection it could heat up.

    Fireman Sam has an episode on it, my workplace bans plugging four ways into four ways (even though that shows ridiculous lack of knowledge), and I’ve seen fire safety videos with sparking happening on overloaded sockets.
    Is this actually a thing?

    1. HowStuffWorks has an article on the topic (“How many things can you plug into an electrical outlet before it catches fire?”), and it’s written that a fire may occur if the produced heat loosens the wiring, and then the electricity arcs. A fire within the wall sounds scary.

    2. A chain of standard outlets (GPO’s, in Australia) is supposed to be fused or tripped at 16A. The outlet itself is rated at 10A. I can easily trip a breaker with a microwave, toasted sandwich maker and kettle all turned on at once (all running off their own GPOs). Nothing apart from the appliances themselves get hot.

      But say I tried to run a *single* outlet at 15A forever… A risk would arise from the single GPO being overloaded. Excessive corrosion (think how older brass plug pins become really dull after ten or fifteen years), and loss of spring tension in the contacting leaves inside the socket after years of abuse. Heat from the poor contact caused by either will cause the situation to worsen, and once started, it’s exponential.

      I’ve seen the ten-outlet “powerboards” (from server racks) used in homes, but running computers and entertainment systems. Chance of overload? Very very small. Like you say, the danger is not the number of sockets, but the total load. However, most people (even people that are very cluey) have *no* idea about current in a circuit. Quite a few can’t even grasp the concept that a toaster will draw more than a night light.

      Best to make rules that cater for the lowest common denominator (the way many rules and laws in society are made). Sadly.

      I’ve never seen it happen, but I could envisage it could.

    3. Because of “Joule Heating” at high current wire connections, specifically at wire nuts.

      Joule heating cannot be prevented by arc-fault-circuit-interrupters or by ground-fault-circuit-interrupters.

      Breakers are intended to trip when an excess current is flowing through a conductor.

      With Joule heating, caused by a faulty high-ohmic connection, the high-ohmic connection presents a high temperature ignition sources that uses less current that needed to trip the circuit breaker. This means the high ohmic connection point will keep getting hotter until it begins to burn.

      While burning it may spread to other areas.


      1. wire nuts are not used in the UK. im certain they are illegal. Electrical fires I have seen in the uk (or atleast the aftermath) almost always involved heavy consumers like 3kw electric heaters. so a slightly loose screw terminal (similar failure mode to the wire nut above) sockets not seated fully and the one that catches a lot of folk out, an un-wound extension lead. Say a 25M lead with just 5m unwound and plugged into a fairly heavy consumer. the lead acts like a choke, gets hot and melty. and finally two cheap switchmode powersupplies.

    4. “Is this actually a thing?”

      Well, it USED TO BE, back when electricity was introduced to buildings that were built pre-electricity. Many of those buildings had maybe one electrical outlet installed per room. It was funny in the movie “A Christmas Story” as it was an over-the-top representation of what went on in numerous homes at the time.

  3. And never forget – fires – especially house fires – are NEVER like on TV or in the movies where you can see perfectly! It is in fact, PITCH BLACK. Smoke is so dense that you cannot see. Actors who are up walking around in movies would be dead the instant they took a breath. The air at head height is enough to vaporize your lung tissue even with a relatively small fire in the same room with no vent to the outside. That is why you MUST stay low. The smoke is toxic just being smoke, but add in burning plastics, foams, carpets, etc and it is poison. You have all of about 90 seconds on average to escape a house fire, and that is in my mind, a dangerous figure. Get out immediately and stay alive!

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