Fire Safety In Your Home
Have A Plan And Be Prepared
A fire in your home is quite possibly one of the worst imaginable scenarios to find yourself or your family in. However, it is vital that everyone in the house is aware of what to do if a fire should break out in your home, so just like The Scouts would say, ‘be prepared’, and have your safety plan in place.
Below we take a quick look at the most important things to remember when planning your fire escape plan, the do's and don'ts when it comes to fire, and the importance of smoke and carbon monoxide alarms.
Unfortunately, there are still many preventable fatalities each year in Ireland resulting from house fires - and even more suffer burns or smoke inhalation. In many cases, these injuries, deaths and fires could have been avoided by increased education and awareness of fire in the home.
There are a few simple rules you can follow in order to keep you and your family safe from a devastating fire in the home:
- Have working smoke alarms in every room except the bathroom and garage. Test the alarm regularly by pushing the test button, and never let a battery go dead in them, changing them regularly. At a minimum, your home insurance may require that you have smoke alarms installed.
- Ensure all naked flames and candles are fully extinguished before you go to bed or leave the house.
- Never leave children unattended near open fires or naked flames.
- Use a fireguard.
- Take care with pets in the home and fire. They don't always have as much sense as humans when it comes to fire.
- Empty ashtrays before you go to bed or leave the house. Don't put hot or warm ashes straight into a bin bag as this is a fire risk as well.
- Keep an approved fire blanket and/or fire extinguisher in the kitchen. Chip pan fires are a common source of fire in the home.
- Close all doors in the house when you go to bed. If a fire were to break out in the kitchen and you didn't have the door closed fully, the fire would spread much faster through your home than if it was.
- Turn off all electrical items at the plug and remove the plug from the wall at night time. Faulty electrical items or sockets can easily spark a fire which can rip through your house in no time at all. Never leave hot items like hair straighteners turned on, and leave them to cool on a heat proof surface.
- Do not cook food in the kitchen when you are drunk or exhausted. Many accidents and house fires are caused by people attempting to cook chips when they get home from a night in the pub, then falling asleep, only to be woken up by the smell of burning and the fire brigade pulling them out of the house.
Every household should have an evacuation plan. Whereas this may sound like a depressing thought, it is essential that everyone in your house is aware of the plan and it is practiced regularly.
To execute an evacuation plan, you must first identify a suitable escape route from an upstairs and downstairs window or door. If you have an upstairs window which opens fully onto a flat roof where you can safely get down to the ground floor level, use this as an escape route, but only if it's safe to exit this way. Make sure you have a secondary route planned in case your primary escape route is at the location of the fire.
It is important to keep all fire escape routes clear both day and night. Also, ensure that keys to windows and doors are kept near to hand or as close to the relevant exit as possible, and that all members of your household are aware of their location. home security is important too, be careful not to place keys anywhere a burglar could cunningly retrieve them.
We recommend that you carry out a routine safety check once every 6 months to ensure that your escape route, and potential hazards are eliminated. Never assume that something will be fine when it comes to dealing with fire. The slightest oversight can lead to devastating consequences and it is best to get into the habit of checking everything and turning things off.
YOUR HOME AND CARBON MONOXIDE
Carbon monoxide has become a talking point over the last number of years, and it’s worth being up to date on this dangerous gas. Below we take a look at the effects of carbon monoxide and how you can protect your family and your home from it.
What Is Carbon Monoxide?
Carbon monoxide is produced through the incomplete combustion of fuels such as oil, gas, wood and coal. It is an extremely dangerous gas and is known as a silent killer. The reason it is so dangerous is because it is colourless and odourless, making it very difficult to detect.
Unfortunately, there have been a number of deaths in Ireland due to carbon monoxide poisoning, which has resulted in campaigns to help raise awareness for carbon monoxide in the home.
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Because carbon monoxide is colourless and odourless, it can kill quite quickly. The initial symptoms associated with carbon monoxide poisoning are similar to that of the flu. Nausea, shortness of breath, dizziness and headaches are all common symptoms for early stage carbon monoxide poisoning. More serious symptoms can include confusion and vomiting.
If you experience any of these symptoms while using fuel burning appliances, please switch off the appliance and seek medical attention urgently. Do not reuse the fuel-burning appliance until it has been checked out by a competent service agent for that fuel type.
We also advise to never block vents and to ensure that flues and chimneys are kept clear (to let the products of combustion out).
Getting An Alarm
Our second recommendation is to invest in a carbon monoxide alarm. According to carbonmonoxide.ie, on average 6 people die in Ireland every year due to unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning. The best way to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning is to have fuel burning appliances installed, serviced and regularly maintained by a competent service agent for your fuel type - such as an RGI, Registered Oil Technician etc.
For added protection, install one or more CO alarms, but remember that these are no substitute for the proper installation, regular maintenance and safe use of appliances. We recommend installing an alarm in every room that contains a fuel burning appliance. An alarm should also be installed within 5 metres of every bedroom.
THE IMPORTANCE OF SMOKE ALARMS
New homes built today have strict regulations that require mains powered interconnected smoke detectors to be fitted. Information from the Department of the Environment, Housing and Local Government in relation to fire related fatalities in 2021 alone across Ireland found that only 35 percent of those who died were in homes with a working smoke alarm. This truly shows how important smoke alarms are, and that it is vital you have enough in your home and that they’re working properly. Below, we reveal more about why a working smoke alarm is important, how many you should have and where they should be located.
Why Do You Need A Working Smoke Alarm?
Did you know that in a house fire, the main cause of injury is smoke inhalation rather than burns? It’s also a fact that most fire fatalities happen at night. This is because your sense of smell doesn’t work when you’re asleep and the fumes can actually put you into a deeper state of unconsciousness. This can be very dangerous and highlights why it’s so important to have a working smoke alarm.
How To Replace A Smoke Alarm Battery
You should test your smoke alarms at least once a week to ensure that everything is in order. You can usually test your alarm by pressing the ‘Test’ button located on the face of the alarm. When the batteries begin to run low, your alarm will likely beep every few minutes to alert you. Ideally, you should never let the batteries run this low and they should be replaced immediately when you hear this warning beep. Otherwise, try to change them once a year to ensure the alarm is always effective. You may get into difficulty putting through a claim for fire damage if it was found that your smoke alarm was not working.
Replacing the batteries is usually quite an easy job. The face of the detector can either be removed by turning it anticlockwise or by pressing two small levers either side of the alarm to release it, as in the image below.
Sometimes, it may not be obvious where the battery is. This is because it can be in a separate compartment within the detector, as shown in the image below.
Once you’ve located the battery, you can simply detach it and reattach a brand new battery. Replace the unit by clicking it into place or turning it clockwise and test the alarm to ensure that the new battery is working.
Smoke detectors often have an expiry date of 10 years, and so the whole unit will need to be replaced after this time. You should check the alarm to see when your alarm expires (usually stamped on the alarm or written on a label inside the unit) and replace it as soon as possible.
How Many Smoke Alarms Do I Need?
As an absolute minimum, you should have one smoke alarm in a central location on each floor of your home. In a two-storey dwelling, this could be the hallway and landing. In a building such as a three-storey townhouse, you should have three smoke alarms . You should be aware that this is the very minimum number of smoke alarms you should have, and more than this will only be beneficial.
Any smoke alarms in the property should carry a CE mark. These alarms will have been rigorously tested and will be the best at detecting a problem.
Where Do Smoke Alarms Need To Be Placed?
As mentioned above, at least one alarm should be placed on each floor and in central locations. But ideally, you should have an alarm in every room except those that are subject to a lot of steam, such as kitchens and bathrooms. Instead, for these areas, you may choose to have a heat detector.
When it comes to finding a suitable position for the alarm, think about where smoke will be detected first. In a bedroom, for instance, the smoke might come in through your bedroom door, making this a good location.You might want to avoid either placing the alarm too far into a room, as it would take a while for the alarm to detect the fumes, or by a window, as the smoke could escape, leaving it unobserved for longer.
Do Smoke Alarms Have To Be On The Ceiling?
Generally, the ceiling is the best place for a smoke alarm. This is because smoke rises and so it may be detected more quickly. However, if you do decide to install a smoke detector on a wall, it must be relatively high up on the wall, around six to 12 inches below the ceiling level.
SEASONAL FIRE SAFETY
At certain times of the year, namely Christmas, there are fire hazards in our home that aren’t there in any other season. Stay alert and make sure you bear these in mind to stay safe in the festive season.
The Christmas Tree
The Christmas tree brightens up your home and is the source of much Christmas cheer for the month of December. However, it can be a fire hazard and there are a number of precautions which you should take to prevent it from causing a fire in your home. Dry Christmas trees can be very flammable, so water the base of your tree to keep it hydrated, and once the tree begins to turn brown bring it to your local tree recycling centre. If you are opting for an artificial Christmas tree, make sure it is fire retardant.
Fairy lights look great but they can also pose a fire safety risk. When putting them up make sure that the wires are not frayed and that all the bulbs are working. It is also not recommended to plug more than three sets of fairy lights into an extension lead, as overloading the socket can cause damage to the socket or a fire.
Candles are a lovely touch at this time of year but precautions should be taken when using them. Place candles on a stable surface, preferably in a sturdy candle holder, and ensure they are kept away from flammable materials such as curtains and wrapped gifts. It is also important not to leave any candles unattended.
LED tea-lights are also a great alternative to real candles.
There’s nothing better than a cosy fireplace at this time of year, but it is important to have your chimney checked before you begin using it again for the winter months. A chimney sweep will remove soot, blockages and creosote build-up in your chimney, minimising the risk of your chimney going on fire.
Ensure your fire alarms are in working order and never remove the batteries, unless you are changing them. It is also important to have at least one fire extinguisher (the larger your home is the more you need), so that you are prepared if there is an emergency.
Keep all of these tips in mind, and you’ll be ready in the unfortunate situation that a house fire occurs. Our final tip is to protect the roof over your family’s head, too. We offer a number of home insurance quotes from our panel of insurers. From buildings insurance to contents insurance , we are sure to find a policy that suits your needs. Give our team a call today on 01 400 3400.