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Fire prevention

Prevention is the most effective firefighting tool we have. Here are some tips to help people keep safe in their homes.

Kitchen safety

How to cook safely

Avoid leaving children in the kitchen alone when cooking on the hob.
Keep matches and sauce pan handles out of reach to keep them safe.

  • Don't cook after drinking alcohol.
  • Take extra care if you need to leave the kitchen whilst cooking, take pans off the heat or turn them down to avoid risk.
  • Make sure saucepan handles don't stick out - so they don't get knocked off the stove.
  • Take care if you're wearing loose clothing - they can easily catch fire.
  • Spark devices are safer than matches or lighters to light gas cookers, because they don't have a naked flame.
  • Double check your cooker is off when you have finished cooking.

Take care with electrics

  • Keep electrics (leads and appliances) away from water.
  • Check toasters are clean and placed away from curtains and kitchen rolls.
  • Keep the oven, hob and grill clean and in good working order. A build up of fat and grease can ignite a fire.

Don't put anything metal in the microwave.

Cooking with hot oil

  • Take care when cooking with hot oil - it sets alight easily.
  • Don't overfill a chip pan with oil - never fill it more than one-third full.
  • Make sure food is dry before putting it in hot oil so it doesn't splash.
  • If the oil starts to smoke it is too hot. Turn off the heat and leave it to cool.
  • Use a thermostat controlled electric deep fat fryer. They can't overheat.

What to do if a pan catches fire

  • Don't take any risks. Turn off the heat if it's safe to do so. Never throw water over it.
  • Don't tackle the fire yourself. Get out, stay out and call 999.

Electrical safety

How to avoid electrical fires

  • Always check that you use the right fuse to prevent overheating.
  • Make sure an electrical appliance has a British or European safety mark when you buy it.
  • Certain appliances, such as washing machines, should have a single plug to themselves, as they are high powered.
  • Try and keep to one plug per socket.
  • Keep your eyes peeled for signs of dangerous or loose wiring such as scorch marks, hot plugs and sockets, fuses that blow or circuit-breakers that trip for no obvious reasons, or flickering lights.
  • Check and replace any old cables and leads, especially if they are hidden from view - behind furniture or under carpets and mats.
  • Unplugging appliances helps reduce the risk of fire.
  • Unplug appliances when you're not using them or when you go to bed.

Safe use of extensions and adapters

An extension lead or adaptor will have a limit to how many amps it can take, so be careful not to overload it.

Appliances use different amounts of power - a television may use a 3amp plug and a vacuum cleaner a 5amp plug for example.

Remember high wattage appliances such as irons or hairdryers should not be plugged into the spare sockets on an extension as they can easily overload them.

When adding an appliance to an extension or adapter consider the total power requirement of the appliances and do not exceed the extension or adapters amp limit. The socket calculator should help you determine if the combination is safe for your extension.

Inform your children

Ensure even the youngest members of your family are aware of the importance of electrical safety in the home by ensuring they visit the Electrical Safety Councils website for kids. They will be educated whilst being entertained by the games and quizzes.

Keep electrical appliances clean and in good working order to prevent them triggering a fire.

Portable heaters

  • Put your heater on a level surface, well away from anything that could knock it over.
  • Make sure your heater is at least a metre away from combustible materials, such as paper, furniture or curtains. Never use it to dry your clothes!
  • Never leave your heater unattended whilst in use.
  • Never leave you heater on while you are asleep.
  • Never power a heater from an extension lead – they can easily be overloaded and cause fires.
  • Regularly inspect your heater for damage and deterioration. If it isn’t in good condition, don’t use it!
  • Avoid using second hand heaters. Make sure you buy from recognised manufacturers and retailers.
  • Unless specifically designed, do not use an electric heater in a bathroom or an area of high humidity and remember not to touch the heater if you are wet or have wet hands.

Tumble dryer, washing machine & dishwasher fires

We would like to remind householders to follow some simple safety advice when using tumble dryers, washing machines or dishwashers.

We are always urging people to be aware of the risks associated with washing machines, tumble dryers and dishwashers. These tips will help reduce your chances of suffering this sort of fire.

General safety

Don't leave the washing machine, tumble dryer or dishwasher running overnight or while you are out. They are a fire risk because of their high wattage, friction and motors.

Tumble dryer safety

  • Always follow the manufacturer's instructions
  • Don't use tumble dryers at night or while unattended
  • Items should be removed from the dryer immediately after the cycle and shaken loose to assist cooling
  • Don't overload plug sockets. Ensure that no more than 13 amps are in any one plug socket.
  • Remove the lint from the trap after every load of clothes dried. Do not cover the vent or any other opening.
  • Ensure the vent pipe is free of kinks and is not crushed in any way. Only use recommended vent pipes, and not improvised ones.
  • Only vent the warm air to the outside of a building. Do not put rags or materials into your tumble dryer if they have been used to soak up flammable liquids.

Tell-tale signs that your tumble dryer is not properly ventilated

  • Clothes take a very long time to dry, especially heavy articles of clothing such as towels or jeans Clothes feel hotter than usual at the end of the cycle.
  • The flapper on the vent hood remains closed when the dryer is on.

 

The Association of Manufacturers of Domestic Appliances (AMDEA)

The Association of Manufacturers of Domestic Appliances (AMDEA) have launched a scheme to improve ownership data in case a safety repair or recall is needed. This way they can easily contact you should they need to, and you can register all your appliances in one place. See www.registermyappliance.org.uk for more information on this fantastic scheme.”


CE Mark Confusion

WARNING! Don’t get confused between the CE mark and the China Export Mark!

Cigarettes

Cigarettes can cause a fire if not handled with care. Please follow the advice below and reduce the risk of a cigarette causing a fire:

  • Never smoke in bed.
  • Use a proper ashtray - never a wastepaper basket.
  • Make sure your ashtray can't tip over and is made of a material that won't burn.
  • Don't leave a lit cigarette, cigar or pipe lying around. They can easily fall over and start a fire.
  • Take extra care if you smoke when you're tired, taking prescription drugs, or if you've been drinking. You might fall asleep and set your sofa or bed on fire.
  • Keep matches and lighters out of children's reach.
  • Consider buying child resistant lighters and match boxes.

Stub cigarettes out properly and dispose of them carefully.
Put them out. Right out!

Matches and lighters

Matches an lighters should be used with care and kept out of the reach of children as they can easily start a fire if used improperly.

Matchboxes now carry the warning label illustrated below, which is a warning to keep them out of the reach of children.

E-cigarettes

An electronic cigarette, also known as an e-cigarette, is an electronic inhaler that vaporises a liquid solution into an aerosol mist, simulating the act of tobacco smoking.

All e-cigarettes use a rechargeable battery to power the vaporiser and these batteries require recharging on a regular basis. A number of incidents have been reported nationally whereby the battery has either overheated or exploded during the charging process.

View some of these incidents at the black museum - 
http://www.esfrs.org/black-museum/all-the-black-museum-cases/e-cigarette-1/ 

E-cigarettes are known to contain lithium ion batteries; this type of battery is known to have caused fires in the past due to 'thermal run away' which can be caused by overcharging, physical damage or a defect within the battery during manufacture.

Members of the public are advised to always follow manufactures instructions and guidance when charging e-cigarette battery packs.

A further point of note is that some e-cigarettes may not have a plug. They charge by connecting the battery into a USB hub and then into a laptop; it is therefore essential that the manufacturers instructions, in relation to charging times, are followed.

Power adaptors used for charging e-cigarettes should comply with The Electrical (Safety) Equipment Regulations 1994 and The Electromagnetic Compatibility Regulations 2006. They must be marked with the following:

  • CE Mark
  • The name or trademark of the manufacturer or responsible supplier.
  • Unique identifier e.g. model, type, batch/serial number.
  • The rated voltage(s), power/current and frequency.

Recently there has been an increase in the number of unbranded e-cigarette chargers available to consumers; many of which are non-compliant with regulations. Specific risks found with these chargers include:

  • Wiring not mechanically retained.
  • Lack of instructions.
  • Overheating of the charger.
  • Possibility of fire.
  • Non conformity of the plug part.
  • Electric shock via the secondary parts.

It is recommended that only the battery and charger provided with the e-cigarette are used when charging.

Candle safety

Candles are safe products, but unless they are used safely and watched carefully, they can lead to an accidental fire.

More than 15,000 candle fires are reported annually. The bulk of candle-fire incidents are due to inattention to basic fire safety or to the misuse of candles.

Derbyshire Fire & Rescue Service urges consumers to be careful when burning candles, and to follow these rules for burning candles safely.

  • Trim candlewicks to 1/4 inch each time before burning. Long or crooked wicks cause flickering, sooting and dripping.
  • Don't burn a candle all the way down. Extinguish the flame if it comes too close to the holder or container.
  • Always burn candles in a well-ventilated room but away from drafts, vents and air currents which may cause rapid flame flare-ups or blow lightweight curtains or papers into the flame.
  • Put candles out when you leave the room, and make sure they're put out completely before going to sleep.
  • Use a snuffer or a spoon to put out candles. It's safer than blowing them out when sparks and hot wax can fly.
  • Keep candles out of the reach of children or pets and do not place lighted candles where they can be knocked over.
  • Never touch a burning candle or move a candle when the wax is liquid.
  • Make sure candles are placed in a holder that is non-flammable, prevents the candle from falling over and is big enough for the size of candle you are using.
  • Be sure the candleholder is placed on a stable, heat-resistant surface which will prevent possible heat damage to surfaces and prevent glass containers from cracking or breaking.

Make sure candles are secured in a proper holder and away from materials that may catch fire, like curtains.

Electric blankets

As the cold weather spreads across the country through the Autumn and Winter, many people choose to use an electric blanket. Care should be taken to avoid risking a fire by careless use of an electric blanket. Electric blankets account for over 5000 fires a year in the home and you can prevent these by taking some simple steps.

Electric Blanket danger signs

  • Fraying fabric.
  • Scorch marks.
  • Exposed elements.
  • Creasing or folding.
  • Soiling.
  • Damp patches.
  • Tie tapes damaged or missing.
  • Worn flex.
  • Loose connections.

If your blanket or any part of the wiring shows any of these danger signs, you should have it checked or replaced:

An old BEAB safety mark - a round symbol (the new sign is white capital letters on a black background). This means it is more than 10 years old.

Buying a new electric blanket

It's cheaper to replace a worn electric blanket than it is to replace your family and your home. So if you are in any doubt about the condition of your blanket, bin it and buy a new one.

You should replace you electric blanket at least every 10 years. Don't buy a second-hand blanket and look for the British or European standard and make sure it has a safety certification mark. Make sure the blanket has an overheat protection.

Store your blanket safely

Storing your blanket in the correct manner will ensure you get the best from it. Don't fold electric blankets - it can damage the wiring. Better to roll them. Or you can store blankets by putting them on a spare bed. Electric under blankets can be left on your bed all year if you wish.

Use your electric blanket safely

  • Always follow the instructions.
  • Never use an electric under blanket as an electric over-blanket, and vice versa.
  • Keep all blankets flat.
  • Tie electric under blankets to the bed or mattress - this stops them slipping and creasing, which could damage them.
  • Only leave a blanket switched on all night if it has thermostatic controls for safe all-night use. Otherwise switch it off and disconnect it before you get into bed.
  • Don't get blankets wet, and if your blanket does get wet, don't use it. Never switch it on to dry it.

Make sure your blanket is tested by an expert at least every three years. You can ask the shop where you bought it about testing and servicing, or contact the trading standards department at your local council - they often have free testing days.

Furniture

All upholstered furniture must meet fire resistance standards. This includes sofas, beds, garden furniture and cushion fillings. It is a criminal offence for a furniture supplier not to meet the safety standards.

Furniture must be fire resistant

All upholstered furniture must meet fire resistance standards. New furniture must be permanently labelled. Any second hand furniture made after 1950 must be fire resistant and meet certain tests.

What are the standards?

The Furniture and Furnishings (Fire Safety) Regulations say that for new furniture:

  • filling materials must meet certain standards so they don't catch fire easily
  • upholstery must be cigarette resistant
  • covers must usually be match resistant
  • a permanent label must be fitted to every item of new furniture, with the exception of mattresses and bed bases. This is for enforcement officers to check a piece of furniture meets the regulations.
  • a display label must be fitted to every item of new furniture at the point of sale, with the exception of mattresses, bed bases, pillows, scatter cushions, seat pads, loose covers sold separately from the furniture and stretch covers. This is to show the resistance of the furniture to igniting.
  • suppliers of domestic upholstered furniture in the UK must maintain records for five years to prove their furniture meets the regulations.

Bedtime checks

You are more at risk from fire when asleep. So it's a good idea to check your home before you go to bed.

The following is a good basic check list you can use before you go to bed:

  • Close inside doors at night to stop a fire from spreading.
  • Turn off and unplug electrical appliances unless they are designed to be left on - like your freezer.
  • Check your cooker is turned off.
  • Don't leave the washing machine on.
  • Turn heaters off and out up fireguards.
  • Put candles and cigarettes out properly.
  • Make sure exits are kept clear
  • Keep doors and windows keys where everyone can find them.

Open fire, stove and chimney safety

Chimney fires happen when soot or creosote deposits in the chimney catch light due to high temperatures or flames from a very hot fire extending into the outlet. These types of chimney fires are sometimes associated with:

  • A loud roaring noise, the result of massive amounts of air bring sucked through the burner or fireplace opening
  • Sparks and flames seen shooting from the chimney top, which can be similar to fireworks in appearance
  • A glowing or shimmering outlet or connector
  • A vibrating appliance, outlet or connector
  • Flames visible through any tiny cracks in the outlet or connector
  • Smoke or smells noticeable in adjoining rooms or the loft space
  • The chimney breast of flue pipe heating up in either the same room or other rooms they pass through.

It should be noted that it is possible to experience a chimney fire without any of these characteristics so this should be treated as a guide.

All chimney fires are extremely dangerous - internal flue temperatures can reach 1,100 degrees Celsius. As a result, massive radiant heat is emitted through the chimney walls and, with the addition of a thatched or wooden roofs, a devastating house fire can start quickly. Flames and sparks can leap from the chimney top or through cracks in the flue and ignite the roof or other parts of the house. The bricks of the chimney can become hot enough to combust nearby flammable materials such as thatch and wooden beams. Adjoining houses and nearby trees can also be affected.

If there is no apparent damage to the outside of the chimney breast or flue, it is still highly likely that there is damage to the lining of the chimney. Chimney fires burn hot enough to damage liners, crack chimney walls and pots and damage factory-built metal chimneys.

Always make sure that you have a working smoke alarm fitted to each floor of your house. They help save lives by giving you earlier warning of a fire and extra seconds to get out. Make sure you have an escape plan in the event of a fire.

If you have a fire, get out, stay out and call 999.

Preventing Chimney Fires

There are four main reasons for chimney fires happening:

  1. Infrequent sweeping and cleaning
  2. Burning unseasoned wet wood
  3. Improper appliance sizing
  4. Overnight burning or smouldering wood for long periods in wood burners.

To reduce the risk of a chimney fire, you should:

  • Have your chimney swept on a regular basis
  • Make sure all wood burnt has a moisture content below 17 per cent, by buying seasoned wood from reputable suppliers
  • Choose the correct size appliance for your room. One which is too large will never burn all of the fuel contained in the wood. This unburned fuel will pass up the chimney as smoke and condense as extremely flammable creosote
  • If you have a wood burner, always follow the manufacturer's recommendations on fuel loading and air flow.

Anyone that has an appliance with a flue has a responsibility to maintain the appliance and the flue. It is often stated that people should take reasonable care within the terms of household insurance policies and, in the case of thatched properties, the frequency of sweeping is often specified by the insurers.

If you are in a rented property, your landlord has a duty of care towards you as a tenant 'to repair and keep in any working order, any room heater and water heating equipment'.

Chimney Sweeping

Sweeping your flue/chimney removes deposits which have built up due to the burning of carbon-based fuels, such as coal, wood, oil and gas. It makes sure there is a clear and safe passage for gases caused by the burning process, which are combustible, making the risk of the chimney catching fire less.

Sweeping will also mean that objects such as nests, cobwebs and loose brickwork, which could obstruct the chimney, are also removed.

For further technical information on chimney sweeping and to locate a registered sweep please visit:

The National Association of Chimney Engineers (NACE)

The Guild of Master Sweeps - guildofmasterchimneysweeps.co.uk

The National Association of Chimney Sweeps - www.nacs.org.uk

The Association of Professional and Independent Chimney Sweeps - www.apics.org.uk

After a Chimney Fire

After a chimney fire has been put out, the chimney must be inspected as soon as possible. It should not be used until this inspection has been carried out.

A certified chimney sweep should carry out a thorough inspection before the chimney is used again to see if there has been any damage caused and any remedial work needed.

Open fires and wood burners

An open fire or a wood burner might provide a focal point to a room and an alternative way of heating your home. But they also bring an increased risk of a fire if not looked after properly and chimneys not maintained.

The main points to remember if you have an open fire or wood burner are to:

  • Always use a fire guard to protect against sparks from hot embers
  • Make sure that the fire is put out before going to bed at night or leaving the house
  • Keep chimneys and flues clean and well maintained - make sure your chimney is swept regularly
  • Make sure your chimney is swept according to the type of fuel used - smokeless fuels at least once a year; bituminous coal at least twice a year, wood quarterly when in use, oil once a year and gas once a year
  • Never interrupt the air supply by blocking air vents or air bricks.