Fire Safety in the Home

Fire Safety In the Home

Smoke Alarms

The easiest and best way to protect yourself and your family from fire is with a smoke alarm. We know that you are seven times more likely to die in a fire if you don’t have working smoke alarmsin your home so we advise you to:

  • Fit at least one alarm on every level of your home.
  • Test your alarms weekly; use a broom handle or walking stick if you cannot reach.
  • If your alarm starts to emit a regular ‘chirp’, replace the battery or detector immediately.
  • Clean your alarms regularly, using your vacuum cleaner or a feather duster, to remove excessive dust.
  • Refer to the manufacturer’s instructions for further advice.
  • Offer to test the smoke alarms of any older family members, neighbours or friends who may need help to do so.

The above advice is suitable for small single private dwellings. It may be you reside in a larger house or flat that may require a more sophisticated interlinked fire alarm system. If in any doubt please contact your local fire safety department for advice.

 

Advice:

The following advice can help you and your family keep safe from fire:

Smoke Alarm Positioning

Fires can start anywhere, so the more smoke alarms that are fitted, the higher the level of protection.

Smoke alarms should always be placed where they can be heard throughout your home – particularly when you are asleep. They should also be placed in any room where you have a large electrical appliance such as a television.

If your home is on one level i.e. a flat or a bungalow, you should fit the alarm in the hallway between the living and sleeping area.

If your home has more than one floor, at least one alarm should be fitted on each level.

Position smoke alarms onto the ceiling as close to the centre of the room, but at least 30 centimetres (12 inches) away from any light fittings.

Do not fit an alarm in the bathroom, as steam may trigger it.

If possible, fit a heat detector rather than a smoke alarm in your kitchen.

 

Carbon Monoxide

Carbon Monoxide is a colourless, odourless gas that is highly toxic. We would urge people to read the information provided by The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents and Gas Safe Charity using the following website links:

www.gassaferegister.co.uk/advice.aspx(Opens in a new window)

www.carbonmonoxidesafety.org.uk(Opens in a new window)

http://www.northerngasnetworks.co.uk/gas-emergencies/carbon-monoxide-know-the-signs/

Bed Time Routine

Establishing a regular bed-time routine before you go to bed each day will help keep you and your family safe from fire. In 2014-15[1], 1 in 4 people died in dwelling fires between midnight and 6am. So each night, make sure you

  • Check all candles and cigarettes are completely out.
  • Switch off your television, phone chargers, lamps and any other electrical appliances which don’t need to be on at night. As well as keeping you safer this could also save you quite a lot of money!
  • Don’t leave washing machines, tumble dryers or dish washers running overnight.
  • Close all your internal doors to stop any fires spreading.

If you don’t have a landline phone in your bedroom take your mobile phone to bed with you. Also, make sure your house keys are easily accessible in your bedroom and that everyone who lives with you knows where they are. Finally, make sure the window lock keys are easily accessible near to the windows. Taking these easy steps should help keep you safe from fire at night. It’s also a good idea to plan your escape from your property should a fire occur.

[1] Fire Statistics 2014-15, Home Office Statistics Unit

Escape Plan

During the 12 months to July 2016[1] there were 1228 home fires in West Yorkshire; 9 people died as a result of these fires and 320 were injured. To stay safe in your home, take a look at, and act on, our fire prevention advice. However, it’s also wise to think about how you and your family would escape in the unlikely event a fire should occur and draw up an escape plan.

We suggest

  • If the smoke detector sounds, if you can, leave your property by the nearest safe exit.
  • Before you open any closed internal doors, reach up as high as you can and check the temperature of the door, using the back of your hand. If the door is hot,do not open it, and use an alternative exit.
  • Once out of the property STAY OUT.
  • Finally, ring 999 and ask for the Fire Service.

If you’re woken from your sleep by a smoke alarms sounding and your bedroom door is too hot to touch with the back of your hand – do not open it.

  • Open your bedroom window.
  • Place some bedding, towels or clothing at the base of the door to block any smoke coming into the room. Your door should protect you from the fire for about 15 minutes so try not to panic.
  • Stand by the window and shout – Help
  • Ring 999 and ask for the Fire Service

[1] FIRE0202; Fires, fatalities and casualties in dwelling fires by motive and fire and rescue authority, Home Office Incident Recording System

Electrical Appliances

Most people have extension leads in their homes, using 4-way bar adaptors to increase the number of appliances that they can plug into a wall socket.

However, although there is space to plug in four appliances, this does not mean it is always safe to do so. Different electrical appliances use different amounts of power. To avoid the risk of overheating and possibly fire, you should never plug into an extension lead or socket appliances that together use more than 13 amps or 3000 watts of energy.

Use the Electrical Safety Council calculator to plug in some typical household appliances to see the effect on the load, and to get useful tips on how to avoid overloading your sockets.

Hearing Impairment

If you have a hearing impairment and are in the house on your own when you are asleep; or you think you would not be able to hear a smoke detector without your hearing aid/s, please contact us so that we can visit you, discuss how we can support you to be safe from fire and decide what equipment may be suitable to fit.

This advice also applies if there is someone else living with you and has a hearing impairment and is left alone for a long period of time.

Taking Medication that Causes Drowsiness

9%[1] of dwelling fires have occurred when occupants have fallen asleep unintentionally or are in bed asleep. There are many prescribed and non-prescribed medicines which may cause drowsiness; these can include some anti-depressants, anti-histamines and cold remedies. So check the packaging and information to see whether this applies to your medication. If you are only taking the medication on a temporary basis – for a few days – then be extra careful around ignition sources such as candles and fires, and ensure you stick to your bed-time routine.

However, if you are taking the medication on a regular basis so that it might prevent you from hearing a smoke alarm sounding when you are asleep, and you live alone or are left alone in the house, please request a visit so that we can discuss how we can support you to be safe from fire, and decide what equipment, if any, is suitable.

This also applies if there is someone else living with you who takes medication that causes them to be drowsy and they are left alone in the property.

[1] WYFRS data for Accidental Dwelling Fires, 2015-16

Drinking Alcohol / Taking drugs

Drinking alcohol can interfere with your ability to concentrate, induce a deep sleep (from which it’s hard to waken) and cause distraction. It also inhibits your ability to react effectively. Many drugs also have the same effect and, when taken at the same time as alcohol, can exacerbate the impact. Our advice, therefore, is that you should not cook, smoke cigarettes or use candles when under the influence as you are more likely to cause an accident and increase the risk of fire e.g. by knocking a candle over, forgetting you’ve got something cooking on your hob, dropping or not extinguishing your cigarette properly and falling asleep.

Chip pans / Deep Fat Fryers

There’s nothing quite like the taste of a home-cooked chip but – nearly 20 people[1] are killed or injured every day in the UK in accidental fires that start in their kitchen, the most common of these are caused by deep fat fryers. If you do use a chip pan or deep fat fryer the most important thing to remember is – never leave it unattended when in use. And – no matter now hungry you are, never use a chip pan or deep fat fryer whilst under the influence of alcohol, drugs or medication that causes drowsiness.

If you still use a traditional chip pan make sure you never fill it more than a third full of oil; and if you use a deep fat fryer don’t fill it with oil beyond the manufacturer’s mark.

When you’ve finished your cooking remove the pan from the heat or switch the appliance off. Change the oil regularly and never store the pan inside your cooker.

Stay safe and enjoy your chips!

[1] www.fireservice.co.uk

Cooking

60% of non-fatal injuries from fire occurred as a result of a fire that started in the kitchen.[1] The chances of a fire, occurring in a kitchen, also dramatically increase between 4pm and 10pm when most of us are preparing our evening meals. Follow these tips so that you and your home don’t become one of these statistics.

Don’t leave your cooking unattended and never cook whilst under the influence of alcohol, drugs or medication that causes drowsiness. Be careful cooking if you wear loose fitting clothing or headwear when cooking – try wearing an apron and ensure headwear and sleeves are tied up or tucked in.

Keep your kitchen surfaces clean and grease-free and clean extractor hoods and filters regularly. And never leave combustible items such as tea towels and cleaning cloths near to, or on top of, your oven or cooking appliances.

If you fancy a slice of toast – pull your toaster clear from any shelves so that the heating elements are well ventilated when you make it.

[1] Fire Statistics table 0505b: 2013-4, www.gov.uk.

Candles

Many of us like to brighten our homes with candles but, in 2014/5[1], there were nearly 1100 accidental fires where the source of ignition was identified as a candle. So, if you’re going to use them – use them safely.

Only use candles in rooms where you are present and try not to use them when children or pets are around in case they’re accidentally knocked over.

When lighting candles, trim the wick first and don’t leave matches in the hot wax once you’ve used them. Once a candle is lit, avoid moving it but if you do, extinguish it first.

Always use suitable candle holders and place them away from draughts, curtains, soft furnishings and under shelves. Tea light candles should also always be placed in proper holders.

If you fancy a long soak in the bath don’t use candles around the sides of the bath and don’t place them on any other plastic or acrylic surface.

Avoid using candles when you’re under the influence of alcohol, recreational drugs or adversley affected by medication.

[1] Fire Statistics Table 0602A, 2014/5 www.gov.uk

Dishwashers/ Washing Machines

Nearly 6000[1] accidental fires in the home, where people have been injured, are caused by household appliances other than cooking appliances. Avoid using your dishwasher or washing machine at night when you are aslepp or when you are not at home.

Regularly clean all filters in the machine and inspect detergent drawers for signs of cracks – cracks could enable water to enter the machine parts and increase the risk of electrcial fire.

There’s been a lot in the news in recent years about household appliances which have been recalled because they may be a fire risk. Check here http://www.electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk/product-recalls/) to make sure your appliance is not one of these.

[1] Fire Statistics Table 0602A, 2014/5 www.gov.uk

Tumble Dryers

One tumble dryer bursts into fames nearly every day in the UK! There’s been a lot in the news in recent years about tumble dryers which have been recalled because they may be a fire risk. Check here to make sure your appliance is not one of these. Hopefully, your dryer is not on this list but follow these tips to ensure you stay safe from fire.

Don’t use your dryer when you are out of the house or asleep in bed.

Don’t overload your tumble dryer – as well as your clothes taking much longer to dry and costing you more money, overloading can cause a fire risk; the element at the back of the tumble dryer can cause the clothing to overheat and combust.

If you have clothing which has been contaminated with substances such as solvents, grease, oils or fats dry them naturally; don’t dry them in your tumble dryer as these substances can all ignite when in contact with extreme heat.

Keep your tumble dryer well-maintained – clean it each time you use it by cleaning and clearing the filters from lint and fluff. Ensure the machine is well ventilated, that there are no kinks in the ventilation pipe and that any external vent flap is able to open when the dryer is on. Don’t use the dryer if it develops scorch marks or you notice any damaged or loose wires.

Remember, always follow the manufacturers instructions.

Electric Blankets

If you use an electric blanket to keep you warm at night make sure you always follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Replace it if it becomes soiled, frayed or worn, wires are visible or any scorch marks are visible. Always replace it with a new one after 10 years and have it serviced every 3 years.

Mobile Devices

With 71% of us now owning a smartphone and laptops rapidly replacing desktop computers within the home we are fast-becoming a truly internet savvy nation but the number of fires occurring as a result of mobile devices is also increasing. Here are some tips to keep you and your children safe from fire – avoid charging your mobile phone, tablet or laptop for long periods and don’t leave the device charger plugged in overnight or when you are out. When your device is charged, always remove the charger from the power socket.

Only use laptops on a suitable hard surface which allows the machine to ventilate and don’t allow any of your devices to become covered with pillows, bedding or clothing.

Only use the correct charger and power cable that has been recommended by the manufacturer and don’t use chargers or cables which you suspect to be counterfeit. Such items are likely to breach UK safety standards and the use of poor quality components may increase the fire risk in your home.

Smoking and E-cigarettes

Unfortunately, fires ignited by smoker’s materials – cigarettes, cigars etc. account for 36% of all fire deaths. To reduce the risk of fire caused by smoker’s materials, smoke outside wherever possible and never smoke in bed. Also, avoid smoking when you feel drowsy or are adversely affected by alcohol or drugs.

Always check you have fully extinguished your cigarette when you have finished and dispose of it in an ashtray, preferably with a little water in the bottom. Never dispose of ash directly into a plastic container or bin and remember to regularly empty your ashtrays.

Avoid smoking if you regularly using paraffin based moisturisers, skin care or emollient creams.

If you notice that someone in your house is dropping cigarettes and creating burn marks to their bedding, clothing or floor coverings – please contact us for further advice.

If you are a smoker of e-cigarettes, follow the manufacturer’s instructions and only use chargers that have been recommended by the manufacturer. Don’t leave your e-cigarette charging overnight, for long periods of time or whilst you are out of the house. When your device is charged, always remove the charger from the power socket.

Finally, don’t keep loose e-cigarette batteries in your pocket and avoid allowing them coming into contact with keys, coins or other metallic objects.

Heaters

Portable Heating Appliances:

If you are using a portable gas heater ensure the room you are using it in is well-ventilated and don’t place it near your bed, sofa or other combustible material. Never drape clothing over the heater

Your heater should be well maintained and kept dust-free. Avoid using aerosols, flammable cleaning liquids and sprays within close proximity.

 

Fixed Wall Gas Fires:

Gas appliances should be serviced by a Gas Safe registered contractor every 12 months.

If you wear loose fitting clothing or you have young children in the house, a fixed fire guard should be used in front of the fire. This guard should never be used to dry or air clothing.

As with all gas appliances, it is recommended that a carbon monoxide detector is fitted. These are widely available from most supermarkets and DIY stores.

 

Open Fires:

If you wear loose fitting clothing or you have young children in the house, a fixed fire guard should be used in front of an open fire. This guard should never be used to dry or air clothing.

Check that any air vents are clear and unobstructed.

Buy and fit a carbon monoxide detector; these are widely available from most supermarkets and DIY stores.

 

Wood Burners:

Wood burning stoves and boilers should be placed onto a fire-resistant base and not a hardwood floor or carpeted surface as this can increase the risk of fire.

The wood used should be dry and well-seasoned as wet or newly felled wood can cause tar or creosote to form in the wood burner and chimney and cause a chimney fire.

Logs and other combustible materials should not be stacked immediately adjacent to the stove or boiler. You should also be extra cautious when opening the stove door, adding to the fire or touching any part of the wood burning stove to prevent injury.

Buy and fit a carbon monoxide detector; these are widely available from most supermarkets and DIY stores.

Chimneys

In 2015/16[1] there were over 4000 chimney fires in England and Wales so if you are using a fire which accesses a chimney you should get your chimney cleaned as follows[2]

If using smokeless fuels, have your chimney swept at least once a year.

If using coal, have your chimney swept at least twice a year.

If using wood, have your chimney swept quarterly when in use.

If using biomass fuels, have your chimney swept at least once a year.

[1] Fire Statistics Table 0102, 2015/16 www.gov.uk

[2] National Association of Chimney Sweeps

Doors and Exit Routes

In the unlikely event you do have a fire in your home, smoke can spread rapidly and obscure your vision making it difficult for you to escape safely. It’s important therefore, that you keep all your doorways clear of items that might block your exit or cause you to trip.

You should also avoid storing items on staircases or any part of the route you might use to escape.

Part of your bed-time routine is to close your internal doors as this will give you valuable time in the event of a fire during the night. So, ensure that all your doors close easily and form an effective seal in the door frame. Where doors are warped, damaged or poorly fitting, you should replace them. Remove any storage hangers from your doors which prevent them from closing correctly.

Also, ensure that the rails and posts of your staircase bannister are secure and in good condition.

Where your entrance door is protected by a security gate, ensure you regularly maintain the locks and hinges. Make sure the keys are easily accessible to all members in your household.

Wheelie Bins and Outside Areas

Whenever possible wheelie bins should be kept in a secure position away from the property itself and out of immediate view. Where this is not possible, bins should be placed away from doors and windows; this will minimise the impact on your property should your bins be set alight.

Don’t accumulate combustible materials such as bed mattresses, cardboard boxes etc. in your garden or outside area. Ensure you either take the items to your nearest local authority waste site or, if you are unable to transport them yourself, contact your local authority for advice regarding bulk collection.

If you have empty or unwanted LPG gas cylinders contact the retailer, to arrange collection.

Barbecues

When the sun comes out most of us love nothing more than firing up our barbecues and cooking up a burger or two. Here a few tips to keep you and your family safe during the summer season.

Barbecues should never be left unattended and always used on a flat surface. If using charcoal, only use enough to cover the base of the barbecue to a depth of about 50mm (2 inches). Only use firelighters and fuel especially designed for use with barbecues. When you’ve finished the barbecue dampen the ash with water to ensure it’s out; never dispose of hot ash into a dustbin.

If you are using a gas barbecue, check it for leaks and cracks to the cylinder and pipework – if it is damaged don’t use it. If you suspect the cylinder is leaking remove it to a well ventilated area, away from all ignition sources, and contact the supplier immediately.

When you’ve finished cooking, turn off the gas cylinder before you turn off the controls to ensure any residual gas is used up.

Firework nuisance

Any incidents of anti-social behaviour involving fireworks being thrown into gardens or put into letterboxes should be reported to the police.

If you are in fear due to these anti-social activities you could consider fitting an external locking wall mounted letterbox and replacing the standard letterbox within your door with a solid metal blanking plate. Alternatively, you may wish to consider fitting a sash jammer on the inside of your door next to your letterbox flap to enable you to prevent it from being opened, other than when your post is due.

Keep gates closed, maintain fences around your property and consider fitting ‘dusk to dawn’ lighting (get one with an LED bulb as they are much cheaper to run) to deter people from entering your property.