Basic precautions and checks can improve fire safety at home
According to Electrical Safety First, the UK charity dedicated to reducing fatalities and injuries caused by electrical incidents, there are some 20,000 electrical fires in the country every year causing some 70 deaths and 350 injuries. The three basic causes are faulty electrical appliances, faulty plug sockets and wiring, and equipment overheating. To avoid being part of these statistics, certain basic safety steps can be taken.
Basic initial checks to make.
Checking the safety and operation of your electrical wiring is a key step in making your home safe.
If you own your home -
call a reputable electrician in to check it meets UK national standard BS 7671. Your local fire department may be prepared to visit and undertake a Home Fire Risk Assessment.
If you’re a tenant -
it’s your landlord’s responsibility to ensure wiring meets the required standard and you can ask to see a certificate confirming this.
Escape routes and warnings
Ensuring you can easily get out in the event of a fire is obviously vital as is getting as much warning as possible if a fire breaks out. A smoke alarm ideally on each floor is an inexpensive and potentially lifesaving way of providing warning of a fire - especially invaluable at night. These should be supplied and fitted by your landlord if you rent your home.
Although you likely won’t have fire escape signage at home
, it’s important to know how best you’d escape. Therefore, seemingly small details like how to unlock windows or making sure the key is within easy reach of the balcony door would be vital (bearing in mind you’d need to act swiftly if disaster strikes).
Once your wiring, fire warning and escape provisions have been dealt with the following should be checked and monitored frequently.
if you notice burn or scorch marks around them or they feel hot to the touch, definitely have an electrician in to investigate.
defective appliances and associated cabling are a major source of fires, so take care. If an appliance frequently blows a fuse or causes your electricity supply to trip, stop using it and have it inspected or replaced. Check the cabling, particularly detachable types such as those supplied with kettles; if it’s faulty, replace it with one suitable for use with that particular appliance.
Don’t be tempted to try and repair an appliance yourself; they usually shouldn’t be taken apart by the user in any event.
If you’re a tenant and any appliances are supplied, do a visual check for any obvious wear and tear such as fraying wires and notify your landlord or letting agent of any issues.
Using appliances -
exercise proper safety precautions. For example, don’t use convection heaters to dry clothing, and be careful where you put hot items like curling tongs - they could come into contact with flammable materials.
When using appliances like irons, switch off when unattended (such as when the phone rings or other interruption) and store out of the way of flammable materials as it cools down after use.
Don’t obscure ventilation holes or grills for items such as heaters.
Adapters and sockets -
don’t overload them especially with high current appliances such as heaters and kettles. If you over-rely on adapters, it may be time to have an extra socket or two installed.
Check the current rating of an adapter against that of the appliance you’re looking to plug in to it; don’t take a chance if the appliance exceeds the adapter.
Similarly, don’t treat extension cables as a permanent part of your wiring; if one is constantly required, install another socket.
don’t exceed the wattage of the socket or lampshade with the bulb you’re using.
keep the cooker clean including the buildup of grease and fat in the grill pan; it can ignite eventually. Somewhat clichéd advice this but still very true - don’t leave pans unattended, especially when frying and using cooking oil.
Third party cables and chargers -
unless a power cable is designed specifically for your appliance, don’t use any old type you have around even if it plugs in satisfactorily.
RCD (Residual Current Device) -
use these to cut the electricity supply if a fault occurs
. A good example is when using an electric lawnmower; if the blade cuts through the cable the power would be cut.
Simple Yet Effective
The steps and checks you can take to improve home fire safety are, as you’ve seen, straightforward and are largely common sense. The important things is to keep monitoring the situation as things can and do change such as appliances springing faults or wiring wearing out.