Following a year in which the number of accidental dwelling fires increased, Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service is urging people to make home fire safety a priority in 2016.
In total, there were 882 accidental dwelling fires in 2014 and 889 in 2015. The number of people dying as a result of accidental fires also increased: from eight in 2014 to 11 in 2015.
“Our thoughts are with the families and friends of the 11 people who lost their lives in accidental house fires last year”, NIFRS Assistant Chief Fire Officer Alan Walmsley told Derry Now. “For us, as a fire and rescue service, one accidental fire death is one too many and we want to reach a stage where we have no fatalities in Northern Ireland due to accidental houses fires.
“No-one is immune to the dangers of fire and no-one should become complacent about their own fire safety — it can happen to any of us”, Walmsley added. “We all need to take personal responsibility for our own fire safety. By routinely completing a number of simple fire safety steps, you can drastically reduce the risk of a fire in your home this year and beyond”.
What can you do to prevent fire in your home?
- Get into the habit of checking your smoke alarms every week to make sure they are working. Set a specific time to do this — for example, on Sunday night before you go to bed — to make it easier for you to remember. If you press the button on your smoke alarm and there is no sound, change the batteries, then test it again. If your smoke alarm goes off by mistake, don’t remove the batteries. Simply wait for it to stop.
- The best place to fit a smoke alarm is in a hallway and where you can hear it while asleep. Don’t put a smoke alarm in a kitchen or a bathroom.
- “Every year firefighters are called to fires in homes where smoke alarms are fitted, but are not working properly”, said Walmsley. “A working smoke alarm will provide you and your family with an early warning to fire in the house to give you the best possible chance to escape”.
- Keep children out of the kitchen while you’re cooking to avoid the risk of them knocking over a pan. If you’re cooking with fat, which can go on fire easily, stay nearby. Never put water onto hot fat.
- Don’t overload your sockets with plugs — try to stick to one plug in each socket. This is most important when it comes to appliances that use a lot of electricity, like washing machines and electric fires.
- Inspect your appliances regularly for broken plugs and wires. Warning signs are plugs that are hot to touch or have dark marks and wires that are loose or broken. Take these plugs out of the socket, and ask an electrician to inspect them.
- Every night, turn off electric heaters, and unplug things that use electricity — but not fridges and freezers.
- If you or someone else is smoking in your home, make sure cigarettes are completely extinguished.
- If you light candles in your home, place them in holders, and keep them away from things that can go on fire easily, such as papers and curtains.
- Plan your escape route so that everyone in the house knows exactly what to do in the event of a fire. Familiarise yourself with the route to make it easier to escape if the fire happens at night, when conditions can be dark and difficult.
- Contact your local fire station to find out if it offers free home fire safety checks — many do.
- “Firefighters will look for any potential fire hazards in the home, provide advice to help avoid fire and most importantly ensure that your smoke alarm is working. If necessary, we will fit a free smoke alarm for you”, said Walmsley.
- If there is a fire in your home, don’t try to put it out yourself. Call 999 immediately, and ask for the fire and rescue service.
For more information, contact your local fire station, or visit www.facebook.com/firekills.