Rebecca Tilby, Registered Manager at Katherine Harriet Ltd looks at Fire Safety at Home.
Rebecca Tilby quoted: It’s important that we are safe in our homes. Take steps to protect yourself from fire and carbon monoxide poisoning, and make sure your gas appliances at home are safe.
What can you do to prevent fires in the home?
Fires can start quickly and cause a lot of damage but there are some simple things you can do in your home to prevent them.
It’s vital to have a smoke alarm on each floor of your home. Check it has the British Standard number BS 5446 and the Kitemark.
- Test your smoke alarms monthly and keep them free from dust.
- Change the battery at least once a year or get a long-life alarm that can last between seven and ten years without needing a new battery.
- If you have hearing problems or vision difficulties, you can get specialist smoke alarms.
- Plan a fire escape route and make sure that corridors, exits and stairs are free from clutter. If you live in a flat, follow the building’s fire evacuation plan and avoid using lifts.
- Don’t dry clothes over or near a fire or electric heater.
- When you’re cooking, never leave the pan unattended.
- If you smoke, make sure you stub your cigarettes out completely and never smoke in bed.
Some fire and rescue services offer a Home Fire Risk Check where they can visit to help you install smoke alarms, plan escape routes and assess other hazards, If you have an open fire, use a fireguard and have the chimney swept at least once a year.
How can you keep gas appliances safe?
Make sure your gas appliances at home are safe and take steps to protect yourself from carbon monoxide poisoning and fire.
If you smell gas, open all doors and windows, turn off the gas supply and call the 24-hour Gas Emergency Service on 0800 111 999 straight away.
If you have a gas boiler, the pilot light should be alight all the time. If it has gone out and you can’t relight it yourself call out a Gas Safe registered engineer.
Have your gas appliances safety checked every year by a Gas Safe registered engineer. Only Gas Safe registered engineers are legally allowed to work on gas appliances. Find one on the Gas Safe website or by calling 0800 408 5500.
How can you prevent carbon monoxide poisoning?
Heaters that burn gas, coal or wood can give off poisonous carbon monoxide fumes if they’re not working properly.
Carbon monoxide is known as a ‘silent killer’ because you can’t see, taste or smell it. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are similar to a cold or flu and can include headaches, dizziness, nausea and breathlessness.
A carbon monoxide detector will flash and sound an audible alarm if it detects carbon monoxide. You should install one in every room where there is a gas appliance and test it monthly. The batteries usually last around five years.
When you buy a carbon monoxide detector, make sure it bears the Kitemark and European Standard number BS EN 50291.
If you think carbon monoxide is present, call the gas emergency number 0800 111 999. If you have solid fuel heating, call a solid fuel engineer.
How can you make sure my home electrics are safe?
There are more than 20,000 electrical fires in UK homes each year. Follow these top tips to make sure your home electrics are safe.
Don’t overload sockets or extension leads as this can cause a fire. If you don’t have enough sockets, use a bar adapter on a lead rather than a block adapter. But for appliances that use a lot of power, such as a fridge or washing machine, put only one plug in each socket.
Check your plugs, sockets, cables and appliances for any damage, such as fraying and exposed or loose wires. Damaged electrical appliances are a fire hazard. Don’t ignore warning signs such as burning smells, buzzing or crackling sounds, or fuses blowing.
You should get a registered electrician to check your wiring at least every ten years. Wiring in the home can suffer wear and tear, which could make it dangerous.
Take particular care when using garden equipment that needs to be plugged in. Make sure any garden equipment is plugged into a socket with RCD (Residual Current Device) protection. RCDs protect you from electric shock.
Get your electric blanket tested by an expert at least every three years and replace it every 10 years. The shop where you bought the blanket, or your local Trading Standards office may be able to test it. Check for danger signs, such as frayed fabric or scorch marks. Check whether you have the type of blanket that can be left on overnight – if it can’t be, always unplug it when you go to bed. Never switch it on if it’s damp or wet, and never use it with a hot-water bottle.
Safe and Well Checks
Hereford & Worcester Fire and Rescue Service (HWFRS) offer a FREE Safe and Well Check – a Home Fire Safety visit that’s tailored to an individual’s needs.
The visit will provide the person with actions and advice to help make their home a safer place and protect them and their family from the risks of fire. It will –
• provide them with a fire escape plan to follow, should the unthinkable happen. We may also fit smoke alarms and specialist equipment if required.
• identify any health and care needs that require signposting to local services to help ensure safety and wellbeing.
This service is free of charge. Our visits are aimed primarily towards those who may be more at risk of a fire in their home, such as older people living alone or people with mobility issues, sensory impairments or additional needs. We are also keen to support if there are concerns around hoarding.
Anyone can call Hereford & Worcester Fire and Rescue Service on 0800 032 1155 or visit http://www.hwfire.org.uk/safety-and-advice/home-safety/request-visit/ to request a free visit or further information. Please be aware there are eligibility criteria to qualify for a visit.