How to make your home fire safe

Monday, 25 March 2013

A practical guide to making your home fire safe

We all fear the dangers posed by a fire occurring in our home – not only because of possible damage to our property, but also for the safety of ourselves and our loved ones.

According to statistics provided by the Department for Communities and Local Government, over 43,000 house fires were reported in Great Britain between March 2011 and April 2012, of which a massive 86% were accidental* – and therefore preventable.

To help ensure your home is as protected as possible against accidental fires, we spoke to Craig McIntosh from the West Yorkshire Fire Service to get some tips.

What are the most common causes of house fires?

Over half of home fires in the UK are caused by cooking accidents, while the remainder tend to occur as a result of faulty electrics, smoking and candles.

In what areas of the house are fires most likely to start?

As cooking accidents cause such a significant proportion of house fires, the kitchen is always a high-risk area. Anywhere where electrical appliances and plug sockets are present can also be a danger zone. Faulty electrics cause around 7,000 home fires every year.

What practical steps can be taken to prevent a house fire?

I would advise all homeowners to follow this simple routine before going to bed at night.

  • Close inside doors at night – if a fire does occur, this can stop it from spreading and buy you valuable time to exit the property safely
  • Turn off and unplug all electrical appliances, with the exception of those that are designed to be left running – such as your freezer
  • Check your cooker is turned off
  • Don’t leave the washing machine on overnight
  • Turn heaters off and put up fireguards
  • Ensure that any candles you’re burning are fully extinguished before you go to bed. Never leave a candle burning overnight or while you’re asleep.
  • Similarly, check that cigarettes are properly put out using an ash tray. Never throw a lit or smouldering cigarette or fresh ash into a bin.
  • Make sure that exits are kept clear, and keep door and window keys easily accessible where everyone can find them.
  • Unplug and turn off any laptops and computers

Lady fitting smoke alarmHow many smoke alarms should a standard two-storey house contain?

There should be a minimum of one smoke alarm on every level of your home. They are cheap, easy to install and are available from DIY stores, electrical shops and most high street supermarkets. You can have alarms installed which are linked, so that when one alarm detects a fire they all go off together. This is useful if you live in a large house or over several levels.

How often should you test and maintain your smoke alarm?

You should test the batteries in your smoke alarm every week and change them every year; we recommend choosing a birthday, anniversary or public holiday as a reminder. A lot of people forget to test the batteries, so longer life batteries are better. An alarm with ten-year batteries is the best option. Try to clean out dust and spider’s webs with a vacuum extension at least twice a year.

Is there an optimum space in the house for installing a smoke alarm?

Don’t put alarms in or near kitchens or bathrooms where smoke or steam can set them off by accident. The ideal position is on the ceiling, in the middle of a room, or on the hallway and landing, so you can hear the alarm throughout your home.

Is there any alternative to a smoke alarm if you’re hard of hearing?

Strobe light and vibrating pad alarms are available for those who are deaf or hard of hearing. You can find out more about how to get hold of these by contacting the Royal National Institute for Deaf People Information Line on 0808 808 0123

What steps should I take to plan a fire escape route?

The best route of escape in case of a fire is usually the normal way in and out of your home. If this should be blocked, make sure you have a second route planned and that everyone knows where it is. Take the time to practice your escape plan to ensure you know exactly what to do if the moment comes. Ensure all exits are kept clear before you go to bed – don’t let debris or rubbish build up around your back door, for example. Keep your door and window keys within reach and somewhere everyone can find them – a bedside cabinet is probably ideal.

What should I do if I can’t fit a smoke alarm myself?

If you’re not confident fitting your smoke alarm yourself, or if you are unable to do so for any reason, your local fire service will be happy to install it for you. Simply contact your local fire and rescue service for help. You can find contact details in your local directory or online at the Fire Rescue website.

* Source: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/36467/FSGB_2011_to_12.pdf

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