A Guide to Home Fire Safety
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What's the risk of a fire starting in your home? Not great you may think. But fires do happen. By taking simple precautions and following these guidelines, the chances of it happening to you will be much less.
This booklet is designed to assist you personally, or accompanied by a firefighter, to identify potential fire hazards in your home. Where a hazard is detected, the booklet also suggests how to deal with it.
Some simple steps can make your home a safer place in which to live.
How to use this booklet...
Q.1 DO YOU HAVE A SMOKE ALARM?
A smoke alarm will give you those precious few minutes of warning, which could help you and your family get out safely.
They are cheap and easy to install and are widely available from DIY, hardware and electrical shops. Choose an alarm which meets British Standard 5446: Part 1.
Follow the manufacturer's instructions on how to fit and position the alarm.
If your hearing is severely impaired, there are special devices available, which make use of a vibrating pad or flashing light.
Checking your Smoke Alarm
Once a week, press the test button to check that the alarm sounds.
If the alarm does not work, try fitting a new battery.
If the alarm still does not work, check the battery is fitted correctly and, if still not working, replace the smoke alarm with a new one.
Change the battery once a year, or sooner if required. Some alarms are now mains powered or fitted with long life or sealed battery units (refer to the manufacturer's instructions in these cases). If the alarm is sounding a single regular beep this means the battery is low and needs replacing.
Clean the alarm. The outer and inner casings of battery operated alarms should be lightly vacuumed at least once a year, preferably when you change the battery.
Types of smoke alarms. All alarms must comply with British Standard BS5446.
Approximately 65% of house fires start in the kitchen. Chip pans, grill pans and electrical faults are the main causes.
Q.1 DO YOU USE A CHIP PAN OR HOT OIL TO COOK?
If YES, please take care as overheated fat and oil can catch fire suddenly and without warning.
- Leave a pan unattended.
- Fill a pan more than one-third full of fat or oil.
- Throw water on burning fat or oil.
A safer option is a thermostatically-controlled ELECTRIC DEEP FAT FRYER
Q.2 DO YOU COOK FATTY FOODS UNDER THE GRILL?
If YES, you MUST clean the grill pan after each use. If you don't, fat deposits build up and can easily catch fire.
Q.3 DO YOU LEAVE PLUGS IN SOCKETS AND APPLIANCESSWITCHED ON WHEN NOT IN USE?
Electrical appliance faults may cause overheating, leading to a fire. You can avoid this by removing all plugs from sockets when equipment is not being used, for example, kettles, lamps, washing machines, radio, TV, tumble dryer and food mixer.
Q.4 DO YOU HAVE AN ELECTRICAL APPLIANCE OR APPLIANCE CABLES NEAR THE COOKER?
If an appliance, or its cable, is subjected to radiated heat it can easily suffer enough damage to result in fire.
Site any appliances, or their associated cables, at a safe distance from your cooker.
Q.5 DO YOU DRY TOWELS ON TOP OF OR NEAR THE COOKER?
When dry, the towel can easily catch fire. Never dry towels on top of or near the cooker.
Ensure all items that may burn are kept at a safe distance.
The Living Room
14% of all house fires start in the living room.
Q.1 DO YOU HAVE AN OPEN FIRE?
- Leave an unguarded fire unattended.
- Use flammable liquids to light the fire.
- Dry clothes too close to a fire.
- Sit too close to a fire.
- Place any furniture closer than 1 metre from a fire.
- Use a fire guard for your own safety.
- Have your chimney swept at least once a year.
Q.2 DO YOU HAVE ANY ELECTRICAL CABLES HIDDEN UNDER RUGS OR CARPETS?
Cables hidden under rugs or carpets will be walked upon. This may damage the cable and result in a fire.
Q.3 DO YOU HAVE A MIRROR SITED ABOVE THE FIREPLACE?
A mirror sited above the fireplace may cause a person to stand too close to the fire with the possibility of their clothing catching fire.
Site the mirror in a safer place.
Q.4 DO YOU LEAVE THE PLUG IN THE SOCKET WHEN AN APPLIANCE IS NOT IN USE?
Remove the plug from the socket when an appliance is not in use.
Q.5 DO YOU HAVE A PORTABLE HEATER?
Make sure heaters are placed far enough away from flammable materials, for example, a chair or clothing. It is recommended that a heater should never be placed closer than 1 metre from flammable materials.
You should ensure your own safety by also sitting a safe distance from the heater.
Q.6 DO YOU SMOKE?
If you do, make sure all cigarette ends are extinguished properly in ashtrays.
NEVER leave ashtrays on top of soft furnishings. Empty ashtrays into a metal bin outside.
The largest single cause of fire in a bedroom is an electric blanket. Statistics show that most of these fires are caused by blankets over 10 years old.
However, smoking and electrical faults are also significant.
Q.1 DO YOU HAVE AN ELECTRIC BLANKET?
Q.1a DO YOU LEAVE IT SWITCHED ON WHILST IN BED?
We recommend that you switch off and unplug the blanket before getting into bed. Check manufacturer's instructions before use.
Q.1b IS YOUR BLANKET OUT OF GUARANTEE?
If it is, it is recommended that the blanket should be inspected and serviced every year. Replace your blanket regularly.
NEVER use a blanket with scorch marks and/or exposed elements.
Q.2 DO YOU SMOKE IN BED?
It is so easy to drop off to sleep. NEVER smoke in bed.
Children are naturally curious. They like to experiment and may not be aware of the dangers associated with fire, possibly leading to tragedy.
Children playing have started many fires in the home.
SMOKING MATERIALS AND CANDLES
- leave lighters and matches where children can get them. Make sure they are out of reach.
- leave candles burning unattended.
REMEMBER! OUT OF REACH = OUT OF HARM'S WAY!
OPEN FIRES AND HEATERS
- make sure fires and heaters are guarded. Guards will prevent children getting close enough to burn themselves. For very young children the guard should be fixed to prevent it falling onto the child.
Children love toys. Toys provide hours of enjoyment and comfort. Don't let that turn into tragedy.
- place toys near anything hot. Some toys may catch fire but even if they don't, your child may be tempted to go too close and may be burned.
- make sure that anything that will attract children or burn easily is at least 1 metre from any heat source.
If you are concerned that your child appears to enjoy playing with fire, your local fire brigade would be pleased to offer free advice.
General Electrical Safety
Q.1 HAVE YOU AN ELECTRICAL CABLE JOINED TOGETHER WITH TAPE?
This is a dangerous practice which may result in fire. Avoid joining cable, replace with a single piece of cable, or use an extension lead.
Q.2 DO YOU USE AN ELECTRICALADAPTOR OR STRIP PLUG?
These fittings are safe if used properly.
NEVER overload the adaptor with too many plugs as this may cause overheating and a fire.
If you do use an adaptor, make sure it is of good quality with a British or European Standard Mark.
NEVER exceed 13 amps in any one wall socket.
Q.3 IS ANY LAMP FITTED WITH A HIGH POWERED LIGHT BULB?
All lamp shades are marked with the maximum wattage of light bulb to be used. If a higher rated bulb is used, overheating could easily occur causing the lamp shade to catch fire.
NEVER cover a lamp shade.
Q.4 ARE MOST OF YOUR PLUGS FITTED WITH 13 AMP FUSES?
An appliance fitted with a higher rated fuse than recommended, which develops a fault, could overheat and eventually catch fire. A properly rated fuse is a safety device to prevent this happening.
Make sure all appliances are fitted with the correct fuse.
TYPICAL DOMESTIC APPLIANCES
USING A 3 AMP FUSE
Video Tape Recorders
USING A 13 AMP FUSE
This is only a guide. Check the plate on the appliance. This will indicate the wattage of the appliance.
Appliances up to 700 watts should be fitted with a 3 amp fuse. Between 700 and 1000 watts (1kw) should be fitted with a 5 amp fuse. Over 1000 watts (1kw) should be fitted with a 13 amp fuse.
If you are in doubt consult an approved electrician.
DO YOU HAVE A FIRE ACTION PLAN?
It is essential to plan what to do in the event of a fire, before it happens. Make sure you keep your escape routes clear of obstructions and flammable materials.
Before you go to bed...
If you carry out the following routine, you will make night-time a lot safer.
1. All electrical appliances, not designed to be left on overnight, should be unplugged.
2. Cigarettes should be properly extinguished and ashtrays should be emptied into a metal bin outside.
3. Put fireguards around open fires.
4. Switch off portable heaters.
5. Close the doors of all rooms. If a fire occurs, a closed door may keep your escape route free from smoke and may stop the fire spreading.
6. Make sure the door out of your house is easily opened from the inside to allow quick escape from fire. Make sure the keys are readily available.
If fire breaks out...
1. Get out of the house immediately. Do not waste time collecting valuables. You are more important than your valuables.
2. Call the Fire Brigade, it's still 999 and free from any kind of telephone.
3. Do not go back into your house until a Fire Officer tells you it is safe.
If cut off by fire...
4. Close the door of the room in which you are trapped, as well as any opening, and block up any gaps or cracks with bedding, etc.
5. If safe, open the window and try to attract attention.
If the room fills with smoke, lean out of the window unless prevented by smoke and flame from the fire. If you cannot lean out of the window, lie close to the floor where the air is clearer until you hear the Fire Brigade arriving.
If the situation becomes intolerable, and you have to attempt to escape before the Fire Brigade arrives, drop cushions or bedding from the window to break your fall, get through the window feet first, lower yourself to the full extent of your arms and drop to the ground. If possible, drop from a position above soft earth.
If clothing catches fire...
A person whose clothes are on fire should STOP, DROP to the floor and ROLL to extinguish the flames. If another person is present they could use blankets, rugs or a thick coat to help put the flames out.
Remember these 10 Key Points
1. PLAN your escape route now.
2. PRACTISE your escape route as a family.
3. You only have seconds. DON'T STOP for valuables.
4. SHOUT to alert your family.
5. KEEP LOW if the house is full of smoke. Remember the air is clearer and cooler near the floor.
6. DON'T INVESTIGATE - keep doors closed.
7. If there's no safe way out, get everyone into a SAFE ROOM.
8. Never jump straight out of a window. LOWER yourself onto cushions, etc.
9. If necessary BREAK a window and make safe all jagged edges, before climbing out.
10. WHEN YOU'RE OUT - STAY OUT - DIAL 999.
For free Fire Safety Advice, please contact your local Community Fire Safety Officer