Reducing Fire Risk at Your Home

A house fire can have truly devastating consequences. Even if nobody is injured in the incident, watching your whole life going up in smoke can have a profound mental effect on fire victims. It is impossible to completely fireproof a home, but there are plenty of steps that you can take to reduce the risk.

Electrical Safety

Make sure that you never overload any of the wiring at your home. This includes overloading sockets with multiple extension leads. Overloaded wiring can become very hot and may lead to a fire. Short circuits from poor quality wiring are also a leading cause of house fires. Check all new electrical appliances to make sure that they meet British safety standards.

If you are planning on installing any new electrics in your home, always hire a competent electrician to do the work for you. Never try to do the work for yourself unless you are qualified. After installing larger items, the electrician may need to do a full electric safety check on the house. Older houses may be fitted with older types of fuse boards which require the user to “wire” a fuse, rather than simply flicking a switch after the electrics are tripped. Although these boards are still permitted in dwellings, they do have a much higher fire risk than modernised fuse boards do. Changing your fuse board and having a full electric safety check can help to reduce the risk of electric fires.

Clear up Clutter

Newspapers, cardboard boxes and piles of clothes are all fire hazards. A small spark could easily catch on highly flammable materials like papers, and these substances will cause the fire to spread more quickly through your home. If you have junk in every room, it can be very difficult to contain the fire. Not only will excess clutter cause the fire to spread more quickly, but it can also make it more difficult for people to exit the building quickly if a fire does take hold. Keep all walkways free from clutter and mess to make your escape route as safe as possible.

Using Candles

If you enjoy using candles in your home, you should make sure that you never leave them unattended. Unattended candles can be knocked over quite easily by young children or pets. Candles with a small base can also be blown over by a gust of wind. Even if the flame itself is extinguished by this wind, the hot wick could still cause something else to catch fire. Alternatively, something could fall on top of, or be blown onto, a lit candle. Ideally, people shouldn’t use candles in their homes, but if you feel that you need to, you need to make sure that they are never left unattended.

Boiler Safety

If you have a gas or an electric boiler at your home, you should make sure that it is serviced regularly. Most modern boilers have internal safety mechanisms which mean that they should shut off if there is a serious problem, however all gas and electric boilers should be serviced annually. This can reduce the fire risk from these items.

Fire Safety Equipment

If you do not already have fire safety equipment in your home, make sure that you purchase some in case there is a fire. You should keep a fire blanket in the kitchen and fit a basic extinguisher if you have room. Most rented accommodation will include some sort of fire safety equipment, but private homeowners will need to buy their own if they want to have this equipment on hand in the event of a fire.

All homeowners should also make sure that there are smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors in their homes. These devices sound an alarm to give people an early warning about hazardous substances (smoke/carbon monoxide) which could be present in their homes. An additional bonus of having a smoke alarm installed in your property is that this can help to reduce your annual home insurance premium. If you, or any other member of your household, is hard of hearing, enhanced alarm systems are available. These systems either cause lights to flash or produce vibrations to alert people to the fire. All alarm systems should be tested on a weekly basis so that you can make sure that they still work. When you purchase a new device, you should read through the instructions so that you know how to test the alarm properly.

Smoking

Even if you live by yourself, you should get out of the habit of smoking indoors. Cigarettes are one of the leading causes of house fires, because it only takes a moment of carelessness for a cigarette to start a fire. Smouldering cigarette ends can easily start a fire in a bin, even if you believe that they have been extinguished properly. Always douse the contents of an ashtray with cold water before you throw them into a bin. This will help you to ensure that the cigarettes are fully extinguished. You should never smoke in bed, especially if you have been drinking or taking drugs, because it is possible that you will fall asleep and drop your lit cigarette.

Cooking with Oil

Take care when you are cooking with oil, especially if you are using a gas hob. Oil can catch fire quickly and the fire will spread if it is not treated properly. Never throw water over an oil pan fire, as this will make the fire much worse. Cover the pan with a fire blanket if you have one available. If this does not extinguish the blaze, you should switch of the heat if you can, leave the kitchen, shut the door, and then call the emergency services.

Lampshades

Never cover lampshades or lights with any additional fabric. These shades can become very hot and may eventually catch fire. You should also avoid draping wet clothes or tea towels directly over electric heaters. If a fire starts when these items are unattended, the fire can spread quickly.