No one needs to be reminded about the potential risk of fire -and yet nearly all domestic fires are caused by carelessness. Many fires could be prevented by taking sensible precautions.
Avoiding the risks
Make sure your electrical installations and equipment are safe and in good order. Don’t overload power sockets with adaptors: fit more sockets instead. Don’t trail long extension leads and flexes under carpets or rugs: if the wiring becomes damaged, it could overheat and start a serious fire.
Never leave fires or heaters unguarded, especially when there are children in the house. And don’t dry clothes in front of a fire – they could easily fall onto the elements or flames.
Take particular care with smoking materials. Empty ashtrays at night, but dampen the contents before discarding them. Don’t rest ashtrays on chair arms: a burning cigarette’s centre of gravity shifts as it burns, which may cause it to topple off and ignite the upholstery. Never smoke in bed: fires are frequently caused by smokers falling asleep and setting light to the bedclothes.
Keep your workshop or garage clear of shavings and flammable rubbish – especially oily rags, which can ignite spontaneously. If possible, store flammable chemicals and paints in an outbuilding away from the house.
As a means of fighting a fire, install an all-purpose fire extinguisher in a prominent position, preferably on an escape route. Mount a fire blanket close to – but not directly above – the cooker. Your local Fire Prevention Officer will be able to recommend equipment for domestic use. Don’t buy inferior items: they may not work in an emergency.
Providing escape routes
Your first responsibility is to ensure that your family can escape safely if your house should catch fire. Before you go to bed, close internal doors – which will help to contain a fire – but don’t lock them. Locked internal doors rarely deter burglars, anyway.
Although you shouldn’t leave a key in an external lock, keep it close by but out of reach of the door or windows. Make sure everyone in the house knows where the key is kept, and always return it to the same place after use. Ensure some accessible part of double-glazed windows can be opened to afford an emergency escape route. Consider keeping a chain escape ladder in a bedroom or in a cup-board on your upstairs landing. Keep stairs and hallways free from obstructions: they may be difficult to see in dense smoke. Avoid using oil heaters to warm these areas, in case they get knocked over during an escape and spread the fire further. Communal stairs to flats are especially important, so try to persuade neighbours to keep them clear.
In the event of a fire, get everyone out of the building quickly, alert neighbours and call the fire brigade. Never that feels warm – it could be protecting you from a dangerous smouldering fire.
Tackling a fire
Don’t attempt to tackle a fire yourself unless you discover it early – and then only with the right equipment. Make sure that everyone in your family knows what to do in the event of a fire.
Cooking oil ignites when it reaches a certain temperature – unattended chip pans cause a lot of domestic fires. Don’t attempt to move a burning pan. Instead:
Turn off the source of heat if it is safe to do so.
- Smother the fire with a close-fitting lid or a fire blanket.
- Alternatively, quickly soak a tea towel in water, wring it out, and drape it over the burning pan.
- Leave the pan to cool for at least half an hour.
- If you aren’t able to extinguish the fire immediately, call the fire brigade.
If there is a blaze in a chimney, phone the fire brigade, then stand a fireguard on the hearth and evacuate the house.
A smoke detector will identify the presence of smoke and fumes and sound a shrill warning. Although detectors can be incorporated into an alarm system, self-contained battery-operated units are easier to fit yourself. Change the battery at least once a year, and check that the detector is working by pressing its test button.
There are two basic types of detector. Photoelectric devices detect smoke from slow-burning fires, which give off large quantities of smoke. Ionisation detectors are less sensitive to smouldering fires but are attuned to particles of smoke produced by hot, blazing fires, such as a burning chip pan. Some detectors combine both systems.
Siting a smoke detector
The best place for a smoke alarm is on the ceiling, at least 300mm (1ft) away from any wall or light fitting, If it’s wall mounted, it should be 150 to 300mm (6in to 1ft) below the ceiling. Don’t install a smoke detector in a kitchen or bathroom.
In a bungalow, mount a detector between the bedrooms and living area(s). In a two storey home, fit one detector in the hallway, directly above the bottom of the stairs, and if possible fit a second one on the landing. Some smoke alarms can be linked – if one detects smoke, they are all triggered at once.
Carbon monoxide is a toxic gas produced by poorly maintained or badly fitted heating appliances, such as gas fires and boilers. Because the gas is colourless and odourless. It’s worth installing simple carbon- monoxide detectors, similar in size and appearance to a smoke detector. One alarm should be installed near your bedrooms and it is worth having a second alarm where the boiler or heater is located, but at least 2 metres (6ft 6in) away from the appliance itself. Screw each detector to a wall at eye level. When carbon monoxide is detected, a red LED comes on, accompanied by a loud siren.
Have you got old smoke detectors? Do you want to bolster the fire safety of your home? At Mr Fix Electrician we can help you update or install the very latest in fire precautionary equipment. Get in contact with us today and let’s talk about making your home even safer from fire. Call us on 01787 852069.
Providing and installing fire safety equipment for customers in Suffolk and North Essex.