A Fire Safety Checklist for the Home
What are the major causes of fire in the home?
What are the major causes of fire in the home?
A pamphlet produced by the UK Government, entitled “Fire Kills”, offers some grim statistics:
- 50% of domestic fires are caused by cooking accidents
- Three fires a day are started by candles
- At least once a week – every five days – somebody dies from a fire caused by a cigarette
- 6,000 domestic fires a year are caused by faulty electrics
But beyond all this, you’re four times more likely to die in a fire in the home if you don’t have a working smoke alarm.
And it’s one thing to have a smoke alarm. It’s quite another to ensure that it’s in good working order. In the UK, 21 people die each year not because they didn’t have a smoke alarm, but because the battery in their smoke alarm was either flat or missing.
Smoke damage is costly, and difficult to clean. To help you protect your home and family from fire, we’ve prepared the following preventative fire safety checklist for the home.
Before you go to bed:
- Close all inside doors – this way, if a fire breaks out, it will not spread
- Turn off and unplug all unnecessary electrical appliances
- Make sure you’re cooker’s switched off
- Extinguish completely all candles and cigarettes
- Make sure that all exit routes are kept clear
- Place door and window keys where everyone can find them
Beyond this, there is much you can do to boost fire safety in the home.
Get a Smoke Alarm and Test it Regularly
This really should go without saying. But as the above statistics illustrate, there are still some people who let this slide – often with fatal consequences.
Smoke alarms are cheap and easy to install. They’re available from most high street supermarkets, electrical shops, and DIY specialists. Your local fire service will be able to advise you on which make and model is best suited for your requirements, but any model with either a British Standards Kitemark, or a Loss Prevention Certification Board (LPCB) symbol, will have been rigorously tested for its safety and reliability.
For the best in home protection, you need a smoke alarm on every level of your home, and each alarm needs to be tested once a week.
You also need to keep on top of the batteries. They’ll have to be changed at least once a year. If you don’t mind paying a little bit more, alarms with ten-year batteries are available.
The majority of smoke alarms can be tested at the touch of a button. If you hear the piercing beep, all’s well.
Never remove the batteries from your smoke alarm unless you’re in the process of changing them. Some smoke alarms are so sensitive that they might be activated by accident by, say, smoking bacon.
In such instances, it’s common for people to remove the batteries from their alarms, just to shut them off. How likely do you think they are to remember to replace the batteries once they’ve finished cooking? Don’t take the chance.
Take Care in the Kitchen
As half of all domestic fires start in the kitchen, this is one area where you need to take particular care.
Never leave any pots or pans unattended. If you need to leave the kitchen while cooking, either takes the pans off the heat, or turn the heat down. And when you’re in the kitchen, make sure that no handles are sticking out where they can be easily knocked.
Loose fitting clothing can easily catch fire. So too can tea towels and cloths – so keep any such flammable fabrics away from cookers and hobs.
If you need to light a gas cooker, invest in a spark device. As they do not create a naked flame, they’re much safer than matches and lighters.
Keep your oven, hobs, and grills clean, as too much accumulated fat and grease can ignite all too easily. Keep toasters away from curtains and kitchen rolls, and keep all electric leads and appliances away from water.
Never leave children in the kitchen alone – especially when you’re cooking on the hob – and keep all matches, lighters, and saucepan handles out of their reach.
Finally, when you’re finished cooking, make absolutely sure the cooker and all appliances are switched off before you leave the kitchen.
Don’t Overdo it With Electrics
6,000 domestic fires a year are caused by faulty electrics, so it’s vital that you take the time to familiarise yourself with how much power each of your appliances use.
As a general rule, you should try and keep it to one plug per socket. If you must use extension leads or adaptors, don’t overload them, as they will have a limit to how many amps they can take. It’s for this reason that larger appliances such as washing machines should be given a single plug of their own.
The right fuse is necessary to prevent overheating, and you should only buy appliances with British or European safety marks. Make sure your wires never fray, and if any of your wires are hidden from view behind furniture or under carpets, get into the habit of checking them regularly for signs of wear and tear.
Finally, you can greatly reduce the risk of fire through unplugging your appliances when they’re not in use, or when you’ve gone to bed.
Cigarettes and Candles
Fires started by cigarettes and candles tend to start off small – often as a single glowing ember that’s barely visible to the naked eye. It’s only when they’re left unattended that they can flourish into a devastating inferno. So never leave a lit candle, cigarette, cigar, or pipe lying around. It doesn’t take much at all for them to be knocked or toppled, starting a fire.
Even when attended, candles should not be placed near curtains or other soft furniture and fabrics.
When it comes to cigarettes, the government has a slogan: “Put them out. Right out!” Don’t just leave them in an ashtray – stub them thoroughly to extinguish any remaining embers.
Don’t smoke in bed, and take care if you’re smoking while tired, medicated, or drinking. If you drift off with a lit cigarette in your hands, you may never wake up.
Plan Your Escape
If you keep all of the above in mind while exercising common sense, you will have done everything in your power to protect your home and your family from fire. However, it’s still imperative that, should the unthinkable ever happen, you plan your escape route in advance.
If your smoke alarm goes off in the middle of the night, you need to be prepared to act and act quickly. The best route is the normal route in and out of your home, so make sure that all exits and routes are kept clear. Keep window and door keys where everyone can find them. And, crucially, ensure that your whole family, young and old, knows what to do.
Your priority is to get out of the house and to safety as quickly as possible, so don’t waste time investigating the fire or rescuing valuables. If there’s smoke, keep low – smoke rises, so it will be clearer nearer the floor.
Before opening any doors, check first to see if they’re warm. If they are, don’t open them, as fire will be on the other side.
If your escape route is blocked, gather everyone in the same room – ideally with a window. Use bedding and blankets to block out the smoke around the bottom of the door. If you’re on the ground floor, you may be able to escape through the window, using bedding to cushion your fall. If the window can’t be opened, break the glass in the bottom corner and use a towel or a blanket to make the jagged edges safer.
If your clothes catch fire, stop, drop, and roll. This will make it harder for the fire to spread.