In a house fire, it takes only 2-3 breaths of toxic fumes to render a person unconscious, and death quickly follows.
There were 49,000 house fires in UK homes last year with 90 deaths resulting from a lack of working smoke alarms.
Follow these simple tips to both help prevent house fires occurring and keep your family safe if they do.
1. Fit a smoke alarm
Fitting smoke alarms in your home is the simplest step you can take to help prevent tragedies. If the previous owners didn’t take theirs, ensure it conforms to British Standard 5446, Part 1 (BS 5446-1), if not buy a new one. Arriving with a couple of smoke alarms just in case is the best policy.
2. Store matches and electrical items safely on moving day
Make sure matches and small electrical items are packed in clearly marked boxes and out of the reach of small children. Cover sockets and install cupboard locks at your new house as soon as possible if you have toddlers. Keep electrical leads away from high traffic areas to avoid trip hazards and remember to unplug appliances at night unless they are designed to remain on, such as freezers.
3. Check electrical appliances
Check socket limits and avoid overloading them, which can lead to overheating and fire hazards. Inspect plugs to ensure the house move has not dislodged wiring. Faulty electrics (appliances, wiring and overloaded sockets) cause around 7,000 house fires across the country every year. All cooker and boiler installations should be carried out by approved by a Gas Safe Registered engineer for your safety, visit www.gassaferegister.co.uk for more details.
4. Choose an escape route
As a family, select an escape route and make sure everyone knows about it. This is the best way to leave the house if there is a fire: ensure the exit is clear at all times. If doors are double locked at any time everyone should be aware of where the keys are kept.
5. Know the building procedures
If you’re moving into a block of flats, make sure you are aware of the fire procedures and that any communal fire fighting equipment has been regularly inspected. Investigate escape routes and make sure communal alarms are operating and that evacuation procedures are clear and well-signposted. Check your lease for details, and ask your solicitor for clarification if at all unsure.
6. Check the chimney
Open fires have become more popular in recent years. It can be exciting to use one for the first time but they can be dangerous. Before lighting one ensure that the chimney has been swept. This includes chimneys being used as flues for gas fires, so if in doubt ask a professional. Ask your solicitor for receipts from the seller to show a sweep has been carried out or arrange for one before the winter months come around.
7. Fit carbon monoxide detectors
Around 50 people a year die from carbon monoxide poisoning due to faulty heating appliances. Carbon monoxide poisoning can result from burning all fossil fuels, not just gas fires and boilers, so you’ll need a detector even if you just have an open fire. Check when your boiler or heating appliances were last serviced and consult a professional if in any doubt. Carbon monoxide detectors should comply with British Standard BS 7860. Please remember they are only warning devices and are not a substitute for regular services.
8. Invest in fire safety equipment
Fire extinguishers and fire blankets can – and should – be used in the home but it is extremely important you know exactly how to use each one and obtain advice. If they are used inappropriately they can cause injury.
9. Designate a fire room
With help from a fire office choose a fire room where you and your family can wait for the fire brigade if you are prevented from escaping from a house fire. The room should be easily visible from the outside and have a connected telephone.
10. Arrange a fire safety check
Many Fire and Rescue Services offer a fire safety risk assessment for free, an invaluable tool that could end up saving your life. To request a visit go to www.fireservice.co.uk to locate your local fire service. A range of fire safety leaflets are also available for download.