Reduce the risk
A fire in your home is one of the most distressing and damaging things that could ever happen. There are, however, a number of simple steps you can take to decrease the risk and increase your chances of escaping should the worst happen.
Prevention is better than the cure. Simple precautions can help to dramatically reduce the chance of fire breaking out in your home.
Take care when cooking with hot oil. 59% of domestic fires occur whilst cooking*, and they can start in an instant if you lose concentration. Think about using thermostatically controlled deep fat fryers.
Matches can be dangerous at the best of times, especially if you have young children in the house. Make sure matches and lighters are kept well out of reach. Also make a concerted effort to keep clothing away from heating appliances.
Every year there are more than 40,000 accidental house fires in England alone**.
Plan your escape
In case a fire should start in your home, make sure everybody knows how you are going to get out. Take the time to discuss and walk through it with everybody in the house, young and old. Remind the household of the plan at least a few times each year.
The best escape route is usually the same way you get in and out of the house – but think about any problems there may be in using this route – and always have an alternative route planned in case your first choice is blocked by fire.
Whichever routes you decide on, make sure they are always clear. Keep keys to doors and windows in the same easily accessible place, and make sure everyone in the household knows where that place is.
Keep internal doors closed at night, or whenever you leave the house. If a fire should break out, closed doors will help prevent it spreading through your home.
Get a smoke alarm
If you don’t already have one, get a smoke alarm fitted. If your escape plan is to work, you’ll need warning as early as possible that a fire is spreading.
A survey in 2000 suggested that 23% of UK homes did not have a smoke alarm fitted at that time - while approximately 9% of those that did have one fitted had an alarm that did not function correctly. Statistics show that you are twice as likely to die in a house fire if you don’t have a smoke alarm.
There are different kinds of smoke detectors available – optical, ionisation and combined alarms. Whichever kind you opt for, your smoke alarm must conform to British Standards 5466 and display the BS kite mark.
Equally as important as having an alarm is making sure that it’s working. Check the battery each week (it only takes a matter of seconds), and replace it every year. The smoke alarm itself will need replacing every ten years. Have a regular time to check your alarm so that you get in the habit of doing so – perhaps every Friday after work.
As a minimum, position one alarm on each floor of your home, preferably in a central location.
In the event of fire
Should a serious fire break out in your home, make sure the whole household is aware of the fire, and then leave via your planned escape route. Stay together if possible. Don’t try to investigate the fire and don’t stop to look for valuables or pets.
Avoid the fumes. If there’s smoke, keep yourself as low to the floor as possible, crawling if necessary. Smoke is poisonous and can kill, so it’s important to keep low, where the air is cleaner.
As you leave the house, only open the doors you need to, and before opening any internal door, touch it with the back of your hand. If it’s warm don’t open it – the fire is likely to be on the other side.
Once you are safely out of the building, call 999. Speak slowly and clearly, giving your whole address and details of anybody trapped inside. If you can, warn neighbours that there is a fire, as there is always the possibility of it spreading to other properties.