Every home contains potential sources of fire – such as cookers, electrical equipment or candles – so it makes sense to be fire aware, to fit smoke alarms and to keep fire-fighting equipment to hand.
Fumes produced by smouldering fire can kill you without you even waking up. This is where smoke alarms offer vital protection, giving early warning of trouble. They are very reasonably priced, but remember to check that your device carries the British Standard kitemark.
The more alarms you have around your home, the safer you will be. If you live on one level, fit a smoke alarm in the hallway between the living and sleeping areas, ideally on the ceiling, at least 300mm away from a wall or light fitting. On a wall the alarm must be 150mm–300mm below the ceiling. It is pointless installing an alarm in a kitchen or bathroom, as steam will set it off. If your house has more than one storey, fit one alarm at the bottom of the staircase and an alarm on each landing. There are two types of smoke alarm:
1. An ionisation alarm is very sensitive to particles of smoke from a fast raging fire.
2. Photoelectric alarms are good for detecting the large quantities of smoke given off by smouldering fires.
Most of the smoke alarms are battery powered, so it’s important to check the batteries regularly. Better still, choose an alarm with a 10- year lithium battery. You can also buy mains-powered smoke alarms that are wired permanently to the electricity supply. When installing an
alarm always read the instructions thoroughly.
Fire extinguishers over 1kg should comply with either the new European Standard BS EN3 or the old BS 5423. To meet the new standard, extinguishers have all-red bodies with a band of colour to indicate the extinguishers contents. You should make yourself aware of the different colours used for the different types of fire.
Water extinguishers (red body) - Ideal for freely burning materials, such as paper, cloth and wood. Some contain water plus a special fire inhibitor that prevents materials burning. These
extinguishers are not suitable for flammable liquids or fires involving electrical appliances.
Foam extinguishers (red body with yellow band) - Multi-purpose foam extinguishers are suitable for fires involving freely burning materials such as paper, cloth and wood, plus most flammable liquids.
Powder extinguishers (red body with blue band) - Suitable for flammable liquids and electrical apparatus and most freely burning materials. But remember that powder smothers rather than cools the flames, so a fire may re-ignite.
Carbon dioxide extinguishers (red body with black band) - For fires involving flammable liquids or electrical equipment like computers, photocopiers or generators. Not to be used in confined spaces where fumes could be inhaled.
A fire blanket is the simplest and safest way to extinguish a cooking-oil fire. Turn off the heat source, hold the blanket so that your hands are protected behind it, then drape it over the pan.
Flames will be smothered immediately, but you mustn’t remove the blanket for at least 30 minutes to allow the heat to decrease. Never pick up a blazing pan and run outside with it; flames blowing back could make you drop the pan and you could get burned.
Most modern fire blankets are made of woven glass; some are coated to ensure oils and fats can’t penetrate. If someone’s clothes are on fire, wrap a fire blanket around them to smother the flames.
For peace of mind, consider keeping compact escape ladders in your upstairs bedrooms. These
can be stored in a roll that fits under the average bed. Escape ladders are lightweight but strong, flame-resistant, and easy to use.