A 2018 government report on fire statistics stated that cooking appliances caused 48 per cent of accidental fires in dwellings in 2017-2018 but everything from electrical wiring to using candles or smoking could also be a cause.
Fire safety is a serious matter and it means not only taking the right precautions to limit the risks in the first place but also having awareness in the event that one does occur.
Checking your insurance policy, which will be tailored to the type of property you have, might be a good place to start. This may insist that certain precautions are taken.
The best way to prevent fire is to look for the likely causes and trouble spots around the house.
As most house fires start in the kitchen, this should also be your starting point.
A frequent cause of fires in the home is overheating tumble dryers. Be sure to de-fluff yours on a regular basis and never leave it on while you’re out of the house.
Oven and hobs
Start by keeping the oven, hob and grill clean so that there is no food or fat that might accidentally catch fire. If you have a gas cooker, use a spark device to light it as they are much safer than a naked flame, such as a match or cigarette lighter.
Turn saucepan handles inwards to keep them out of the reach of children and be careful with loose clothing, tea towels or oven gloves in case they catch and ignite. Always double check at the end of cooking to make sure that the hob or oven is off.
Get a fire blanket
Buy a fire blanket and keep it in the kitchen. Then if a pan does catch fire, you will have something to smother it with. Never throw water over flames as it could create a fireball and the same applies with deep fat frying – if the oil starts to smoke, that means it’s too hot, so let it cool. If a fire does start, leave the kitchen, close the door and call the fire brigade.
Once you’ve tackled the kitchen, it’s time to move on to other areas.
If you have an open fire in your lounge, make sure there’s a fire guard in front of it when lit. Keep all furniture at least a metre away from it too.
Ensure that any furniture you have is made from materials that have undergone a fire safety test. You’ll find details of this on the label. Otherwise, contact the manufacturer.
Finally, be sure to go through these essential checks around the house.
Electrics and wiring
Could there be something wrong with your wiring? Check for flickering lights, fuses that blow and circuit-breakers that trip unexpectedly. Unusually hot plugs and scorch marks around sockets are all indications. Also, be sure not to overload plug sockets.
Always be careful when using candles – avoid lighting them next to curtains in particular.
Keep portable heaters upright at all times and don’t leave them on when you’re not in the room. Use the ‘heater-metre’ rule, meaning you should keep all objects, especially if they are flammable, at least a metre away from your heater.
No matter how good your fire prevention measures, fire can strike unexpectantly. The earlier you know about it, the more you can do about it.
Fit smoke alarms
Have at least one working smoke alarm per floor and where possible use interlinked alarms, so that they all go off simultaneously. The best places to fit them is on the ceiling of a room, in the hallway or landing. Generally, it’s best to avoid kitchens and bathrooms, as steam can affect the sensors.
How to test your smoke alarms
While quick and easy, checking the smoke alarm regularly is something easily forgotten. Try to test your alarm twice a month to ensure it is always working.
Get heat detectors
For extra peace of mind, consider having heat detectors installed in the kitchen. When a certain temperature is reached, an alarm will sound. For people who are deaf or hard of hearing, strobe lights and vibrating-pad smoke alarms are a good alternative.
Have an emergency plan
If the worst-case scenario happens and a fire starts, help keep you and your family safe by being ready. If a fire does break out, make sure that everybody in the house knows what the fire plan is.
In a house, you’ll probably have an escape route worked out – usually the normal route in and out but it’s good to plan a back-up in case that isn’t an option.
Always ensure that exits and doorways are kept clear and make sure you practice your escape plan with your family. Have a meeting point nearby where you can all gather once you’re all outside. Make sure it is somewhere that everyone knows and can get to quickly and easily, you can then immediately see if anyone is missing and act accordingly.
Flames, heat, smoke and water are a destructive mix and one that can cause major damage to your home. But just because the flames have gone out, you should be vigilant of further problems.
Seek medical attention
Even if you’ve escaped obvious harm from the fire, be aware that smoke can cause breathing difficulties. If you experience any respiratory problems, seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Exercise caution before re-entering your house
Fires can cause considerable structural damage which may not be immediately apparent, so only ever re-enter your home if you have been given the go-ahead by a professional.
Don’t turn on gas, electricity or water
This is especially true if they’ve been isolated by the fire service. Also, don’t eat or drink anything that’s been exposed to smoke or liquid used to extinguish the fire.
Contact your insurer
If you’re a MORE THAN home insurance customer just call us and we’ll take time to explain the next steps. You can also start a claim online here. Once you’ve registered your claim, we may arrange a visit to inspect your home.
Once it’s safe to return home, it’s vital to carry out a quick and effective clean-up. Depending on your budget and the level of damage, it’s often best to have carpets, curtains and precious objects cleaned and repaired professionally.
At MORE THAN we’ll help you arrange repairs but if your insurer doesn’t, be sure to hire a trusted and personally recommended company and always get a detailed quote before they start work.