Fires can happen to anyone

A couple, living on Orkney, had a lucky escape from a fire that occurred during the night. The fire, believed to have started from a battery overheating, quickly engulfed the garage that stands just a few meters away from their house.

Mr Hemmings was woken by a loud bang and by the time he made his way to the garage it was already consumed in flames. ‘We had a lucky escape,’ said Mr Hemmings ‘if I hadn’t woken up the fire could very easily have spread to our home.’

How can this risk be reduced? Having a heat alarm installed in your garage will give you an early warning in case of a fire and enable you to act quickly, ensuring that the damage is minimised and lives protected.

Heat alarms are designed to deal with the often dusty environment of garages and the fumes that can occur and will not false alarm like a traditional smoke alarm could in these conditions. Having the alarm interlinked with the alarms in your home will give you an even better chance to act as quickly as possible. If an interlinked alarm in your garage or shed were to activate, it would also activate the alarms in your home.

Having a powder extinguisher close by will enable you to tackle small fires and minimise the damage to your property if it is safe to do so. Powder extinguishers are suitable to tackle the types of fire that occur in a garage, such as petrol fires, electric fires and build up of oily and greasy waste.

If you would like to know more about alarms that are suitable for your garage visit our website or call 0800 612 6537

What causes “chirping” and false alarms in smoke alarms?

hoovering-alarmIf your smoke or heat alarm has started its low battery “chirp” in the middle of the night or alarmed falsely with no obvious reason, unfortunately, many people lose faith in their alarms, seeing them as an annoyance rather than essential life saving devices.
False alarms and chirping are often pointing at problems that require attention. There are a number of checks that can be done to help find the cause before seeking further help from the manufacturer or retailer. Below is a step-by-step guide to the possible causes and solutions for false alarms and chirping; however, always refer to the manufacturer’s instructions for your exact smoke or heat alarm model. Additional care should be taken with mains powered alarms, as interference with the alarm can cause electrocution.

1) “Correct” alarm for the “correct” area
There are three main types of domestic alarms available on the market:

Ionisation Smoke Alarms – Slightly quicker at detecting fast flaming fires than other technologies but usually only installed in upstairs landing areas. If installed near a kitchen, where the occasional toast might get burned, ionisation alarms can cause false alarms. The installation of this alarm near sources of smoke is one of the key reasons for false alarms in daytime.

Optical Smoke Alarms – Slightly quicker at detecting slow smouldering fires that can originate from upholstery type materials and over-heated wiring. Suitable to be installed in bedrooms, living rooms and downstairs hallways. These are fairly ‘toast-proof’ and can be installed near kitchens (not in kitchens, though).

Heat Alarms – Activate when the temperature inside the room reaches a certain trigger level or if the heat in a room rises very quickly. These are ideal in kitchens and garages, as they do not get triggered by fumes. Please note that a heat alarm only covers a small area, so larger kitchens will require several heat alarms.

All types of alarm will sound in the event of a fire; however, understanding more about each sensor technology helps you to select units that are least likely to cause false alarms. Alarms placed in the wrong location will on the other hand cause false alarms, eg if you have a smoke alarm located in the hallway and this sounds each time you use the toaster or boil vegetables, it is likely that you have an ionisation smoke alarm installed rather than an optical.

2) Optimum position
The user manual for your smoke or heat alarm will provide advice on “locations to avoid” when positioning your alarm on the ceiling. Below are some examples:
– Near fluorescent lights – as electronic “noise” can cause false alarms
– In front of air supply ducts for heating or air conditioning, or near ceiling fans
– Directly above cookers/toasters/kettles (heat alarm) – although heat alarms are designed not to cause false alarms from cooking fumes, they should not be installed directly above cooking appliances
– Within 0.9m (3ft) of the door to a bathroom or shower room (smoke alarm) – steam can cause false alarms

3) Dust and/or Insects
Smoke alarms contain a sensor which is used to detect a fire. Over time, dust can build up or small insects/flies can crawl inside the unit, obstruct the sensor and eventually cause false alarms. Cleaning your alarm helps to remove anything that could be blocking the sensor. Wipe the outside of the alarm with a damp cloth, then using a vacuum nozzle or a hair dryer (set on cold), to suck or blow through the openings of the alarm.

4) Decorating
If decorating, especially sanding, has recently taken place, dust particles or paint fumes could have entered the sensor chamber, causing damage to the unit and therefore causing false alarms. It is recommended to temporarily cover the alarm whilst decorating. Some alarms are supplied with a protective cover, so keep hold of this after installation for any future use. If you suspect decorating may have affected your alarm, try cleaning the unit as described above.

5) Temperature
Smoke alarms have an optimum operating temperature and it is important to ensure that your alarm is not subjected to temperatures above or below these thresholds. Typically, the operating temperature for a smoke alarm is between 0 ˚C to +40 ˚C. If the alarm is positioned where it may experience blasts of hot or cold air e.g. close to a front door, or the ambient room temperature is not constant e.g. in attics, this is when false alarms can occur. It may be necessary to reposition your alarm.

6) Age of the alarm
Each smoke and heat alarm should have a sticker located on the edge or the back of the unit indicating a replace-by date. This is usually ten years after manufacture. If your alarm starts chirping or regularly sounds falsely, it could mean that the alarm is close to, or has reached the end of its life. Check the date to see if the alarm is due to be replaced.

7) Problem with the mains supply?
Mains powered smoke alarms can usually be identified by two LEDs located on the face of the unit. One LED flashes red approximately once a minute to indicate that the unit is operating correctly. The second LED should be constantly green to indicate that mains power is present. If the green LED is not present, this could mean that there is an issue with the mains power getting to the alarm. If needed, advice should be obtained by a qualified electrician.

8) Battery running low
Chirping every 30-40 seconds is generally an indication that the battery is running low. If your smoke or heat alarm has a replaceable battery, try changing the battery for a brandnew one. It is recommended to change the batteries in your smoke and heat alarms every 12 months. Changing your battery before it runs low helps to overcome the annoying chirps at night. Change the batteries when the clocks are changed forward or register for a free email reminder service.

Many smoke and heat alarms are now fitted with a sealed lithium battery, designed to last the life of the alarm. These batteries are not accessible for replacement and so if your alarm starts chirping but has a non-replaceable battery, the alarm may have reached the end of its life. Batteries running low apply to both solely battery powered alarms as well as mains powered units with a back-up battery.

9) Another alarm nearby?
If you have tried all the above and you can still hear chirping, the final check is to see if there is another alarm or device within the same area that could be causing the chirp. It is easy to associate chirping with smoke and heat alarms and forget that other devices e.g. carbon monoxide detectors could also contain a battery that is running low.

Safelincs are happy to provide information regarding your smoke and heat alarms. For more information, you can also visit our Smoke Alarm Help Guides page, or contact our customer services team.

National Chip Week Fire Safety Tips

ChipsChips are one of the nation’s favourite foods. The National Chip Week (16th – 22nd February) celebrates this passion in a fun way encouraging everyone to eat chips, vote for their favourite condiment and the best chip shop and to share ideas and recipes.

However, with over half of last year’s domestic fires being linked to cooking there is a serious side to this national celebration. Over 3,000 people were injured last year in kitchen fires, many of which involved deep fat fryers. With this in mind we would like to remind everyone planning to cook chips of some fire safety tips.

– If possible use a thermostatically controlled deep fat fryer, the thermostat regulates the temperature of the fat and prevents overheating.

– Look out for signs of the oil overheating, if it starts to smoke, the oil is too hot. Turn off the heat or remove from the source of heat and leave to cool.

– Oil can ignite very quickly if splashed onto hot surfaces. Care should therefore be taken not to overfill chip pans (it is recommended that the pan is no more than a third full of oil)

– Never cook with oil after consuming alcohol and always attend to your cooking, never leave the room with a pan still cooking. A chip pan can ignite very quickly. ALWAYS supervise cooking with oil.

– Should your chip pan ignite ensure that you and any occupants of the house are safe. Call 999 and leave the house, closing doors and windows as you go.

– If you are able to, turn off the heat, never try to move a burning chip pan. Burning oil may spill and spread the fire. If you are confident in doing so, use a fire blanket or a fire extinguisher, such as a water mist fire extinguisher or a wet chemical extinguisher

– Think of safer ways to cook chips, oven chips and air fryers are not only safer but healthier ways to enjoy your chips this week.

Lastly, before embarking on cooking chips and joining in the general celebration of the humble chips, check that your smoke alarms and heat alarms are working. A smoke alarm will alert occupants of a fire, giving them precious seconds to evacuate.

BBC turns to Safelincs to look after its journalists

Brazillian World Cup 2014 - BBCPresenters and reporters travelling to the World Cup in Brazil have been equipped with smoke alarms, heat alarms and carbon monoxide alarms by Safelincs.
Any organisation that has employees travelling abroad has a duty of care to ensure that their health and safety is protected. The BBC has its people covering football matches in different parts of Brazil and they will be staying in various types of accommodation.
“I’m sure the accommodation the journalists will be staying in will be perfectly safe,” commented Harry Dewick-Eisele, managing director of Safelincs. “However, uptake of smoke and carbon monoxide alarms has not been as great in South America as it has been in the UK, so the BBC is taking very sensible precautions for its employees travelling to the World Cup.”
Safelincs were able to provide the BBC with a comprehensive selection of products at competitive prices, all delivered in timescales that were second to none.

Which type of smoke alarm should I use?

Smoke alarms are the most essential components in any fire safety strategy, whether in commercial or domestic properties.

There is a wide range of smoke alarm models available designed to suit various circumstances. It is therefore important to ensure that you purchase the correct model for your requirements, in order to ensure your smoke alarms operate as efficiently as possible.

Below is a summary of the various smoke alarm models featured on our website:

Optical smoke alarms are suitable for general use and are especially suitable for detecting smouldering fires caused for example by smouldering soft furnishings. They are also not too sensitive to false alarms from burnt toast, making them ideal in hallways (near kitchens), living rooms and bedrooms.

Ionisation smoke alarms are able to detect the change in the behaviour of the air in case of a fire. Fast flaming fires, such as burning waste paper baskets, are easily detected by ionisation smoke alarms and we recommend ionisation smoke alarms for use in offices or on landings. Please note that ionisation smoke alarms contain a small amount of radio-activity. If you wish to avoid this, choose optical smoke alarms instead.

Heat alarms are designed to detect the increase of temperature caused by a fire and do not cause false alarms. They are especially useful in dusty or smoky areas, such as kitchen and garages. They do, however, not cover very large areas, so cannot really be used for larger parts of a building.

Multi-sensor alarms combine the features of optical and heat alarms, resulting in rapid fire detection and a reduced risk of false alarms. They are suitable for living rooms, bedrooms, hallways and landings but should not be used in kitchens.

If you require further advice on which smoke alarm design is suitable for you, please don’t hesitate to contact us today. We also publish a guide on the different smoke alarm technologies.

For warehouse areas and industrial properties we offer more fire detection technologies and central alarm panle systems.

Protecting your kitchen from fire

Whether at work or in the home, it is easy to equip your kitchen with adequate fire safety measures and it does not have to be expensive.

Blankets
A fire blanket is an excellent extinguisher for small fires that break out on hobs and in pans and should be present in every kitchen. A fire blanket excludes air from the fire, thereby starving it of fuel and extinguishing it. If a pan catches fire in your kitchen, turn off the heat (where possible without risk to you) and cover it entirely with the fire blanket. Always leave the fire blanket on the source of fire until everything has cooled down to room temperature! Do not be tempted to remove the fire blanket before cooling down fully, as hot fat might re-ignite.

Extinguishers
Another good fire extinguisher option for a small kitchen is an ABF rated foam fire extinguisher as it is ideal for tackling fires where fats are present. Larger kitchens will most likely require the specialist wet chemical fire extinguishers designed to deal with larger pan fires and industrial deep fat fryer fires. Another alternative are dry water mist fire extinguishers. These are excellent on fat fires but can also be used on almost all other fire risks found in a building and are entirely non-toxic, which is important in industrial kitchens. If you have expensive electrical items in your kitchen you might also like to consider buying a CO2 fire extinguisher as well as it will reduce any potential damage to your electrical appliances. CO2 extinguishers only contain an inert gas and do not leave any residues. Please note that CO2 fire extinguishers might still damage sensitive electronic equipment through thermal or electrostatic shock.

Alarms
If you enjoy cooking, you will know just how quickly a normal smoke alarm goes off when your kitchen fills up with steam and smoke or smoke billows into adjoining rooms. It is for this reason that kitchens should only be fitted with heat alarms. A heat alarm only triggers an alarm when the temperature rises above 50 to 60°Celsius or if the temperature rises rapidly, so you can rest assured that it will only sound when there is an actual fire. Rooms and hallways close to kitchens should be fitted with optical smoke alarms rather than ionisation alarms, as they are less prone to false alarms.

If you are unsure about the best fire safety for your property, please contact us and we will be happy to help.

 

How to protect a kitchen with heat detectors

Kitchens produce great amounts of steam and cooking smoke and ordinary smoke alarms are not able to cope with these confusing signals. An ionisation smoke alarm or even an optical smoke alarm would quickly be set off when a kitchen is being used. At the same time fires regularly start in the kitchen, so rapid fire detection is important.

Luckily, there is an easy solution available. Heat alarms or heat detectors work by detecting either rapidly rising temperatures or trigger when a certain temperature is reached. Heat detectors do not get set off by steam or smoke or the normal cooking tempreatures. The thermistor in the heat detector head only detects the temperature changes mentioned above and ignores all other influences.

To notify the rest of the house of a fire in the kitchen you do not need to rely solely on the siren in the heat detector. You can interconnect the heat detectors with other smoke alarms in the house either with wire or through radio-frequency. The latter avoids you having to lay cables between alarms.

Heat detectors are also installed in garages and other areas where smoke or gases are present (with exception of bathrooms).

More information about the workings of heat detectors and other smoke alarms can be found in our smoke alarm guide.

National Chip Week 20-26 February 2012

National chip week is a fun week celebrating the British love of chips. There are many sites on web with hints and tips of how to cook the best chips but amongst all the fun there is a serious side to Nation Chip Week.

According to a report, Fire statistics: Great Britain 2010 – 2011, more than half of accidental fires in the home were due to cooking. As many people will be supporting National Chip Week by cooking chips there is cause for concern regarding household safety.

Old fashioned chip pans should be discarded as fat in them can become quickly overheated and burst into flames. Many people do not know how to cope with a chip pan fire and make the situation worse by trying to put the fire out with water. NEVER pour water on to a chip pan fire, this causes the fat to spit out of the pan and spread the fire.

If you have a fire blanket: Open the blanket completely and be sure to shield your face and body from the fire. Protect your hands by ensuring, as you hold the blanket, that they are always behind the blanket. Cover the burning container completely, do not throw the blanket. Turn off any gas or fuel supply and leave the blanket in place until the oil or fat has cooled completely.

The only other extinguishers suitable for deep fat fryers are specialist ABF extinguishers, wet chemical extinguishers and as a new option dry water mist extinguishers. All of these can be safely used on fat fires.

Here are some tips to prevent a fire in your kitchen:- Never leave cooking unattended, if you must leave the kitchen turn the cooker off until your return.- Ensure that you have a working smoke or heat alarm fitted in your house. Heat alarms are specially suited for kitchens as they will not be triggered by burning the toast.- think of alternative ways of cooking food, buy oven chips or cook chips in a thermostatic fryer.- Ensure that your children know what to do in the event of a fire, practice your fire drill with them.- Check your smoke alarms are working on a regular basis, sign up to our reminder service to help you

Chip pans cause fires, don’t be caught out!

After a good night out with friends in the pub there is nothing nicer than to get back home and finish the evening off with a midnight snack. For many people it is the last snack that they will prepare. Chip pan fires are the cause of many house fire deaths, many of them occurring as a result of the midnight munchies after a night out.

A chip pan that is left unattended can burst into flames. Many people putting the chip pan on after a night out, go and sit down while it is heating up; they fall asleep and without them being aware the chip pan bursts into flames. If a heat or smoke alarm is fitted in or near the kitchen, the occupant will be alerted to the fire and will have the time to evacuate the building and call the fire brigade.

Where there is no smoke or heat alarms fitted the story has a different ending. Unlike the perception that many people have that they will wake from the smell of smoke, the smoke overcomes them and they die of smoke inhalation before the flames reach them. Smoke is toxic and after only a few breaths you can be rendered unconscious, not giving you enough time to escape to safety.

By following two very simple safety steps you will reduced the risk of dying in a house fire.

1) Ensure that you have working smoke alarms fitted in your home.

2) Get a take-away after a night out rather than putting the chip pan on or put something in the microwave.

Here are some real life accounts from fire fighters who have attended fires caused by cooking after a night out where someone has died

Which smoke alarm should you choose?

Once you have reached the decision to protect your home and it’s occupants from fire by purchasing smoke alarms  the dilemma begins. Which alarm should you buy and where should you install it?

To help you overcome this dilema we have produced a guide that will help to explain the different types of alarm and the most suitable place to install them. The guide has pictorial clarification as well as written and also an informative installation overview.

The development of this guide is the result of a customer comment on our customer questionnaire. We take all our customers and their comments seriously and strive to improve our services. We respond to our customer comments and let them know how we are going to improve our services as a result of their feedback.

If you have any comments or suggestions, please do not hesitate to contact us.

You can e-mail service@safelincs.co.uk.