You’re twice as likely to die from a house fire if you don’t have a smoke alarm. Available in supermarkets and high-street shops, they’re cheap and easy to fit – some local Fire and Rescue services will install them free of charge if requested. Buy one (with a British Standard Kitemark) for each level and fit them to the ceiling in hallways and landings. Test that they’re working once a week. Make sure you change the batteries every year and the whole unit every ten years.
Nearly two thirds of all domestic fires are cooking related. Don’t let food and fat build up on the oven, hob or grill, and clean your toaster regularly. Keep electrical leads away from water and the cooker, and don’t hang oven gloves or tea towels on or over it. Only put non-metallic items in the microwave. Never fill a pan more than one third full of fat or oil, or put wet food into it while hot.
If you’re temporarily called away, take pans off the heat and don’t leave young children alone in the kitchen. Only turn off a pan that catches fire if it’s safe to do so, cover it with a damp tea towel and leave to cool.
If things get out of hand, leave the room, shut the door, get everyone out of the house and call the fire brigade.
If you have a gas cooker, check that the ventilation in the kitchen is working properly. Ensure that all the gas appliances throughout your home have been properly installed and checked annually by a CORGI-registered installer.
Adopt a safety routine at bedtime. Switch off and unplug all electrical appliances (except those that are meant to stay on, like the fridge freezer). Check that the cooker and heaters are off, and empty ashtrays – making sure the contents are cold. Close all the doors, as this helps prevent a fire from spreading, and make sure you have easy access to a phone. Have your electric blankets checked by an expert at least every three years.
Be on your guard
Never smoke in bed, or in a chair if you’re tired. Don’t leave a lit cigarette, pipe or candle unattended or near young children – and keep matches and lighters well away from them. Sit at least three feet from a heater and never put them near clothes or furnishings. Don’t overload electrical sockets or run extension cables across the floor, as they can become worn. Keep flammable materials, such as solvents, away from direct sunlight or other heat sources.
Could everyone in your house easily find the keys to the doors and windows? Are possible escape routes obstructed?
If there is a fire, shut the door of the room that it’s in and all others as you quickly and calmly leave the house. Before opening a door, touch it with the back of your hand. Don’t open it if it feels warm as fire could be on the other side. If there is a lot of smoke, crawl out with your nose close to the floor. As soon as you are out, call 999. If your escape route is blocked stay put and close the door. Use towels and sheets to block any gaps to stop the smoke. Go to a window and call for help.
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