Careless attention to fireplaces, heaters, smoking and cooking equipment are leading caused of fire-death and injury.
The information below explains the basics of fire prevention in the home and what to do should a fire break out. Remember, the age groups most at risk are the under 12’s and over 60’s Let’s start with three golden rules.
- Plan and practice an escape drill with your family.
- Install smoke alarms to give you an early warning.
- Survey your home to ensure that it is firesafe.
1. The Escape Drill – Automatic Safety
Most often when fire breaks out, so does panic and error. Things can happen very quickly and in a situation where seconds can save lives, you and your family need to be able to act without hesitation. A rehearsed fire escape drill can make all the difference.
Your Fire Drill at a Glance
- Together, plan two escape routes from each room.
- Practice the plan until perfected
- Close all doors behind you as you leave
- The stairs are your primary escape route – keep them clear.
- If your clothes catch fire – stop, drop and roll
- Do not re-enter the house for any reason
- Phone the fire brigade from a nearby outside phone
- Decide on a meeting point outside the house near where the fire brigade is likely to arrive.
If you are prevented from leaving by smoke, heat or fire, close the room and seal all cracks with sheets or clothing or a sheet. Always keep down on the floor where the air is cleaner and cooler. Practice the drill every few months with your family.
2. Smoke Alarms Smoke - Turning an Enemy into an Ally
Most fires happen at night while people are asleep. When there’s a fire, smoke will actually put sleeping people into a deeper sleep, it will not wake them.
By installing a minimum of 2 smoke alarms you will have early warning devices which give you time to act before you and your family are overcome by dangerous smoke and fumes.
- Two smoke alarms, properly located, would suit the average home – you should only install smoke alarms manufactured to recognised standards.
- Make sure that all smoke alarms are properly installed and maintained. Test the alarms and their batteries regularly.
3. The Fire Safety Survey - Prevention is the Best Firefighter
Most people think of their homes as a haven of safety. The truth is, when it comes to fire, a lot of houses and dwellings are anything but safe. Using below as a checklist, walk through your home with your family checking the following common-sense precautions. Do the check regularly.
Living and Family Rooms
- If you allow smoking in the house, provide large, stable ashtrays. A burning cigarette end can smoulder for hours before igniting and spreading.
- Are matches and lighters out of children’s reach?
- Make sure you have an effective sparkguard at open fires especially before you go to bed and when children are about. Clean chimneys at least twice a year. Remember don’t leave newspapers, clothes or combustible materials too close to a fire or heater.
- Check all electrical leads and plugs for deterioration, burning or fraying. Make sure there are no over loaded sockets. Switch off and unplug all appliances when not in use. (These checks apply all around the house).
- Portable heaters should be treated with care. All gas and electric models require special attention and handling. Do you know of any special instructions for their use? Keep all flammable materials at a safe distance.
- Most domestic fires start here. Having a fire extinguisher and fire blanket will substantially reduce the risk of fire spreading.
- A clean cooker is a lot safer than a greasy one. Treat kitchen appliances and electrical leads do not cross over cooker rings.
- Develop safe and sensible cooking habits. Keep saucepan handles turned in but not over other rings. Take care with chip pans and hot cooking oil. If your cooking oil catches fire, use a fire-blanket to put it out. Do not move the pan or use water to extinguish flames.
- One of the most dangerous fire hazards in the home is smoking in bed – it is high risk and should be completely banned.
- Check electric blankets regularly for wear or damage. Make sure they are used according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Remember, switch off and unplug all appliances before going to bed.
Workshops, Utility and Storage Areas
- Most garages and storage areas contain some flammable materials – oil, petrol, paint, adhesives, insecticides and chemicals. Utmost care should be taken. As many of these as possible should be stored outside the house in sealed metal containers.
- Remove any unnecessary rubbish that might cause fire danger.
- Get a qualified electrical contractor to carry our installation and repairs to electrical equipment and fittings. Don’t take chances.
- Take special precaution at holiday periods Christmas, Halloween.
- Young children must never be left alone in the house, caravan, mobile home or car.
This information should not be regarded as an interpretation of the law on the subject.
How to Avoid a Chimney Fire
What causes chimney fires?
Chimney fires occur when deposits of carbon and dust accumulate in a chimney and are set alight by sparks or flames from an open fire. Most solid fuels create some kind of soot which without regular cleaning of chimneys builds up in the flue and eventually catches fire. Ensure that wood and turf have dried out adequately before use. This will reduce the amounts of tarry deposits which these fuels produce when burnt.
How are they avoided?
Regular cleaning is the only way chimney fires can by avoided. Recommendations are that chimneys be swept thoroughly at least twice a year, once perhaps at the beginning of the cold weather period, i.e. after the Summer /Autumn, to clear the chimney of debris (Bird’s Nests, etc.) which may have accumulated and also to remove soot. They should also be swept mid-way through the Winter to ensure a fire does not occur. Obviously the more often a fire is lit and the more varied the fuels used, the more frequently it should be cleaned. Do not rely on chemical blocks etc. to clean a chimney. There is no better method that a sweep’s brush!
Chimney fires and the Fire Brigade
Many people incorrectly see the Fire brigade as a chimney cleaning service without perhaps realising that damage is being caused to flues with each fire that occurs. Almost half of all fires attended by Fire Brigades are chimney fires. Some Local Authorities have instituted charges to attend these fires, therefore it is in your interest to ensure that your chimney is swept regularly.
Are they dangerous?
Yes, chimney fires are particularly dangerous in that they can structurally weaken the flue liner and chimney block causing cracks to form into which sparks may enter and so cause fires elsewhere in the house. Burning soot may also fall on carpets etc. and set them alight.
What do I do if a fire starts?
Don’t panic! Place a sparkguard in front of the fire to stop hot soot falling out. Pour water over the fire to extinguish it and keep a supply of water available, should it be needed. Phone for the Fire Brigade and keep a watchful eye on the fire until they arrive.
Other safety hints regarding open fires:
1. Keep a sparkguard in front of open fires when the room is unoccupied.
2. Secure a sparkguard to the fireplace if children are in the room and never leave them alone with an open fire or with matches.
3. Keep fires small: Avoid banking them up too high where hot coals may tumble out onto carpeting.
4. Avoid placing mirrors over fireplaces as this attracts people, especially children, to come too close to the fire where their clothing may catch fire.
Chimneys should be cleaned at least twice a year
The above information should not be regarded as an interpretation of the law on the subject.
For information on Carbon monoxide click on the link below:
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