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Mr O’Brien told News Shopper: “I feel now may be a wise time to highlight things people can do themselves to reduce the risk of fire.”
He said the most important message was that every home should have at least one working smoke alarm, which should be tested at least once a week.
He added: “Ideally, if your home has more than one level, fit one alarm at the bottom of the staircase and further alarms on each landing.”
Fire safety in the home:
- The most important message is that a working smoke alarm provides a vital early warning and extra time to escape if there is a fire. Every home should have at least one working smoke alarm, tested at least once a week. Ideally, if your home has more than one level fit one alarm at the bottom of the staircase and further alarms on each landing.
- Forty per cent of deaths caused by fires in the home are caused by cigarettes, cigars or tobacco. In fact, households with a smoker are almost one-and-a-half times more likely to suffer a fire than non-smoking households.
- Make sure your cigarette, cigar or pipe is out when you’ve finished smoking it.
- Never leave lit cigarettes unattended.
- Take extra care when you’re tired, have been drinking alcohol or taking medication that can make you drowsy. It’s very easy to fall asleep without realising that your cigarette is still burning.
- Never smoke in bed.
- Always use a proper, heavy ashtray that won’t tip over easily and is made of a material that won’t burn.
- Never tip ash into a wastebasket.
- Empty ashtrays frequently – wet the contents before emptying them into a metal bin outside the home.
- Keep all matches and lighters out of the reach of children.
Heaters (especially relevant with the onset of cold weather):
- Never sit too close to the heater as you could set light to your clothes or chair, especially if you fall asleep.
- Heaters should stand where they can't be knocked over, away from beds, furniture and fabrics.
- Do not put anything on the heater or use it to dry clothes.
- Make sure all heaters are guarded, particularly if you have children.
- Never try to move any portable heater while it is alight/switched on – always turn it off and allow it to cool first.
- Ensure the heater conforms to British Standards, and have it serviced regularly.
- When changing a gas heater cylinder, try to do this in open air. Otherwise, open windows and doors to increase ventilation. Check that the valve on the empty cylinder is closed before disconnecting it and do not turn on the valve of the new cylinder until it is securely connected to the heater.
- Store spare cylinders upright and outside whenever possible. Never store them in basements, under stairs or in cupboards containing electric meters or equipment.
Open fires and chimneys:
- Have your chimney swept first before lighting the first fire of winter and don't allow soot or ash to build up.
- Inspect your chimney breast, particularly in the roof space. Make sure it is sound and that sparks or fumes can't escape through cracks or broken bricks.
- Use a fireguard.
- Burn the recommended fuels only.
- Don’t overload the grate or build fires too high; let fires burn down well before going to bed; and check the hearth, floor and furnishings near the fire for sparks or embers.
- The possibility of a fire is the last thing on our minds but many events including Christmas, Diwali, Hanukkah, Chinese New Year and Eid ul-Fitr, bring their own specific fire risks.
- It’s easy to forget safety when you’ve had a few drinks, so if celebrating with alcohol take extra care. Never cook when you have been drinking alcohol.
- If you are using decorative lights make sure they meet British Standards and are in good working order.
- Make sure decorative lights are turned off at night and when you go out.
- Make sure the plug for the decorative lights has the right size fuse (refer to the manufacturers instructions).
- Candles are often used during celebrations and festivals – never leave them burning unattended or close to curtains or other objects that could catch fire.
- Keep decorations, wrapping paper and greetings cards away from decorative lights, candles, fireplaces and heaters.
- If you are using fireworks, always follow the firework code.
- If you are having a party, or inviting guests to stay, make sure they know how to escape if a fire starts. Tell your guests where you keep door and window keys. If guests are smoking, ensure cigarettes are put out carefully in a proper ash tray.
- Preparing food is a major part of most festivals, but many fires start in the kitchen. Cooking should never be left unattended and extra care should be taken when preparing deep fried food.