One of the biggest threats for home owners in winter, is the threat of household fires which are mostly started by accident when people are careless with open flames. Fires can start suddenly and spread quickly. The main sources of fires in the home are cookers, candles, electric blankets, fires and heaters.
Andrew Worthington, General Manager at Fidelity Fire Solutions, says this is a critical time of the year for education around fire safety.
“Every year we get called out to many fire incidents during the winter months. Besides the obvious threat of losing their lives, people can lose their homes and possessions in a matter of minutes when a fire breaks out,” he says.
“When we survey residents about fire safety and prevention, the results are alarming,” says Worthington. “Very few people have smoke alarms and even fewer have a fire extinguisher in their home.”
“Installing smoke alarms isn’t common practice in South Africa – but it should be. Linked to an armed response service, you’ll have peace of mind that help is on its way in the event of a fire emergency, when every second counts,” he says.
One of the most common causes of residential fires are indoor or outdoor fireplaces. Thatch lapas are especially vulnerable. Other causes of household fires include worn out electrical wires and appliances, burning candles, heaters, electric blankets, children playing with matches, gas leaks and burning oil left unattended on a stove.
Worthington lists a few do’s and don’ts.
- Install smoke alarms and have them linked to your alarm system. Test them regularly, about once a month.
- Buy at least one fire extinguisher for your home and have it serviced regularly.
- Unplug appliances at night unless they’re designed to be left on (your fridge for example).
- Know your emergency numbers and what to do in an emergency – Plan and practice your escape route and keep exits clear.
- Check electrical cables for faults and take note of warnings on electrical appliances.
- Keep low when exiting a smoke-filled room and cover your nose and mouth with a damp cloth.
- Work out an emergency fire drill with your family.
- Leave a burning candle, heater, pot of oil or fire unattended – ever!
- Don’t dry clothes on fireguards or heaters and place portable heaters at least one metre away from anything that might catch fire.
- Don’t smoke anywhere you might fall asleep.
- Try to put an oil fire out with water. Try turn off heat, use a fire blanket or a DCP (dry chemical powder extinguisher) to extinguish.
- Open a door which is hot to the touch.
- Go back into the house if you’ve made it outside safely.
- Go into a room that is on fire.
“Fire safety is complex but there are certain basic concepts that help prevent the start and spread of fires. Fires can be deadly and devastating. We therefore encourage everyone to spend a bit of time thinking about fire prevention and taking steps to ensure their loved ones are protected from the outbreak of a fire due to negligence,” concludes Worthington.