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Fire Prevention in the Home

Every year, more than 37,000 household fires are reported in the UK and more than 260 people die in these fires. A further 7,300 are injured. One in ten of these fire victims are children. However, fire safety is not an issue that comes to our minds very often as we go about our daily routine. Yet in our homes, there may be dangers that can take lives and destroy our properties.

This web site wants to highlight the dangers of fire and smoke.

Understand the dangers

Most residential fire deaths occur because of inhalation of toxic gas, rather than contact with flames. The tragedy is that many of these deaths could be prevented by taking a few precautions.

General Fire Prevention Tips

  • Do not plug too many appliances into an electrical outlet.
  • Make sure that combustibles are not too close to heaters, stoves and fireplaces.
  • Never smoke in bed or on soft furniture.
  • Do not use damaged or frayed electrical cords or extension cords.
  • Keep matches and lighters out of the reach of children.
  • Teach your children about the dangers of playing with fire.
  • Never use extension cords with heating or air conditioning equipment.
  • Purchase smoke alarms and fire extinguishers for each floor of your home.
  • Have an Emergency Escape Plan and practice it frequently.
  • Close your downstairs doors at night before going to bed.

The most obvious way out may be blocked by fire or smoke. Remember that the smoke of a home fire is extremely dense and toxic - it is virtually impossible to see through - so if a downstairs room is on fire, a window will usually be the only way out of a room upstairs.

  • Make sure that screens or storm windows can be easily removed.
  • Ensure that you have tools available if windows must be broken.
  • If you live in a two-story home, you should have an escape ladder for each occupied bedroom. Escape ladders are available for purchase, and they can easily be stored under a bed or in a closet.

Please note that your anticipated escape route, for example over a bay window or similar, might well be blocked if the fire rages in the room below.

The photo shows a house where the fire had come through a little roof, which otherwise could have acted as an escape route. Here, an alternative exit would have been required.

If you are exiting with young children, the parent to which the children are most attached should lead the way, as children will be more likely to follow.
Establish a meeting place outside your home to be sure everyone has escaped. Every family member should participate in practice escape drills.

  • In the event of fire, do not stop to get dressed or gather valuables. Seconds count - do not search for the family pet.
  • Teach your family that in a fire they must stay low to the floor to avoid smoke.
  • Passageways may be completely filled with dense smoke, so everyone should practice exiting on their hands and knees while blindfolded.
  • Train family members to feel any closed door on the exit route before opening. If the door is warm, open it slowly, and close it quickly if heat or smoke rushes in.
  • Establish a rule that once you're out, you never re-enter under any circumstances. As soon as two people have reached the meeting place, one should call 999 from a neighbour's house.

The earlier a fire is detected, the less risk there is to your life. Fire alarms and smoke detectors play a very important role in this

Recommendations

Smoke Alarms

You are four times more likely to die in a fire if you don't have a smoke alarm that works.

  • Purchase a smoke alarm for every floor of your home, and read the instructions on how to use it and where to position it.
  • Smoke alarms should be placed near bedrooms, either on the ceiling or six to twelve inches below the ceiling on the wall. Do not place it within 6 inches of where the wall and ceiling meet on either surface.
  • Locate smoke alarms away from air vents.
  • Test your alarms regularly to ensure that they still work.
  • If you have a battery-powered alarm, change the battery every six months when you change your clocks.
  • For maximum protection, install BOTH ionisation and photoelectric smoke alarms in the home for the optimum detection of fast flaming fires and slow smouldering fires.
  • We recommend the installation of linked alarms which go off at the same time to avoid the risk of not hearing the alarms in a distant part of the house.


Fire Extinguishers

To guard against small fires or to keep a small fire from developing into a big one, every home should be equipped with fire extinguishers. Because almost all fires are small at first, they might be contained if a fire extinguisher is handy and used properly. You should take care, however, to select the right kind of fire extinguisher because there are different ones for different kinds of fires. Install fire extinguishers on every level of the home and include the kitchen, ground floor and garage.


Selecting a Fire Extinguisher

Extinguishers are classified according to the class of fire for which they are suitable. There are several different classes of fires: A, B, C, D, F and Electrical.

Class A fires involve common combustibles such as wood, paper, cloth, rubber, trash and most plastics. They are common in typical commercial and home settings.

Class B fires involving flammable liquids, solvents, oil, petrol, paints, lacquers, other oil-based products and liquifying plastics. Class B fires often spread rapidly. Unless they are properly suppressed, they can re-flash after the flames have been extinguished.

Class C fires caused by combustion of gases e.g. methane, propane, hydrogen, acetylene, natural gas and city gas.

Class D fires involve combustible metals as magnesium and aluminium swarf.

Class F fires are the classical pan fire. Chip pan fires can only be controlled with fire blankets or special wet chemical fire extinguishers, which lay a cooling and oxygen-blocking foam carpet on top of the boiling oil. The wet chemical fire extinguishers usually come with an application lance.

Electrical fires are those which involve or a started by an electrical device or source (sometimes, but not officially, referred to as Class E).

A typical home extinguisher should ideally have an ABC rating. However, the most common type of extinguisher that provides covers all three classes, the dry powder extinguisher, is not recommended for use indoors due to the mess it creates. Furthermore, your fire extinguisher in the kitchen ought to be suitable for pan fires as well (typically only a feature of wet chemical extinguishers).

A new type of extinguisher is now available - the water mist extinguisher – that provides ABC cover as well class F for pan fires. These extinguishers are even rated for use on electrical fires, meaning that one good sized water mist extinguisher can replace a number of smaller ones in the home.


Anti-Arson Letterboxes

Arson is a serious problem, as each year around 80,000 arson attacks are committed. Hundreds of people are injured and dozens of people die. The associated cost of arson attacks is over £2.5 billion annually. Arson now accounts for around half of all recorded fires in the UK. The letterbox is the most vulnerable area of a building, providing an arsonist direct and easy access. We therefore recommend the installation of an Anti-Arson Letterbox on the inside of the door containing the letter opening.

Anti-Arson letterboxes are designed to eliminate the threat of arson by firstly containing any flammable liquid poured through the letterbox. The fire is then automatically extinguished by a heat sensitive automatic fire extinguishing system, which is heat-activated.

Fire Doors in Houses

The majority of people should now have a smoke alarm in their home, but whether they are correctly positioned and working is another story all together. Another extremely important means of protection in the home against fire is commonly overlooked: the fire door. Fire can rapidly spread and can possibly engulf the rooms in a house in under 10 minutes, destroying the property and belongings.

Damage caused by a fire and the smoke from a fire can be radically reduced by having fire doors fitted in the home and closing them at night when fires are most common. In the event of a fire, the fire door will hold back the smoke, heat and flames, protecting the escape route and allowing the occupants more time to get out of the building safely as well as localising the smoke and fire damage to the room.

Restraining the fire to a smaller area also means that Fire Fighters can utilise the most important, initial moments when they first arrive at a fire to hit the fire and ventilate the room promoting damage control.

Commercial properties have certain fire regulations that protect against fire but owners of domestic properties ought to ensure that they are protected in this way by having the correct fire doors and fire door hardware installed. This will include the door hinges, door frames and seals.

If you are looking for a fire door why not take a look at our Online Fire Door Configurator.

 

Reviewed: 23/07/2019 (doc:134 V1.1). Our articles are reviewed regularly. However, any changes made to standards or legislation following the review date will not have been considered. Please note that we provide abridged, easy-to-understand guidance. To make detailed decisions about your fire safety provisions, you might require further advice or need to consult the full standards and legislation.

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