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Be alert to alarms for a safer home and don’t be tempted to risk fires by saving on energy

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Be alert to alarms for a safer home and don’t be tempted to risk fires by saving on energy

Smoke alarms save lives and in the event of a fire or carbon monoxide (CO) incident, they can provide precious time to escape. 

That is why the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) and Hereford & Worcester Fire and Rescue Service are highlighting the importance of installing alarms during this week’s Home Fire Safety Week (13-19 June).

The week is encouraging people to assess the needs of their homes and ensure they have adequate alarms. Alarms save lives and can provide precious time to escape.

It is also encouraging people to think about how they can guard against fire risk, particularly as energy prices increase and people are tempted to save on costs by cutting corners on electrical safety.

Additionally, ahead of autumn and winter, we want people to check on older relatives and neighbours who could be vulnerable and at a higher risk in the home – they might benefit from a Home Fire Safety Visit from us.

Most people know a working smoke alarm can save lives by providing vital seconds to escape a fire.

But although most homes (90%) have at least one working smoke alarm – compared with only 9% of households in 1987 - smoke alarms alerted householders to a fire in England in only 43% of cases.

The most common reason a smoke alarm failed to activate was because the fire was outside its range, whilst only 26 per cent (about a quarter) of all households who own an alarm test them on a regular basis.

In Herefordshire and Worcestershire, between 01/04/2012 and 31/03/2022, there were no smoke alarms fitted in 1,494 fires (more than 25%), compared with 4,314 fires occurring where one was fitted.

So, we are asking householders to install alarms to ensure the whole home is covered and make sure alarms are installed in the rooms used most, ie where a fire is most likely to start.

Think about the following for your smoke alarms:

  • install at least one smoke alarm on each level of your home and also in the rooms you use most (eg: bedrooms, living rooms, dining rooms)
  • CO alarms should be installed in all rooms where there is fuel-burning appliance
  • ensure all appliances are installed and maintained correctly by registered, qualified tradespeople
  • alarms don't last forever, so replace them at least every 10 years (including hard-wired alarms), or by the ‘replace by’ date indicated on the base - or even earlier if found to be defective
  • if you can, interlink alarms so that they will all activate
  • check they have a sealed battery compartment to prevent tampering or removal of the battery
  • fit an optical multi sensor smoke alarm with a ten-year life span
  • consider fitting a heat alarm in the kitchen
  • test all alarms regularly to make sure they work

Also think about carbon monoxide (CO) dangers

Carbon Monoxide is a highly poisonous gas, which you cannot see, taste or smell. We therefore recommend having a working CO alarm fitted in any room with a fuel-burning appliance such as an open fire, wood-burning stove or gas appliance, for example a boiler or cooker..

Other fire risks to avoid during Home Fire Safety Week and always

We are also urging people to avoid trying to save money by using dangerous or out-of-date products, faulty electrical gadgets, illegal tobacco, emollient products such as ignitable skin cream, and using household equipment for heating when not its intended use.

Please bear in mind the following risks:

  • Only use appliances in the way they are intended, register them and check for product recalls and safety alerts (quick and free to do at registermyappliance.org.uk)
  • If your home has a time of use tariff, avoid running white goods while you are asleep
  • Illegal cigarettes – apart from being cheaper and therefore a smoking temptation – won’t go out like legal cigarettes if not actively smoked, and could therefore ignite furniture, causing fatal fires. Remember: ‘all cigarettes are a fire risk but illegal cigarettes are a greater fire risk’
  • Take care when using emollients – clothing, bedding, dressings and bandages with skin cream dried on them can catch fire easily causing severe or fatal burns
  • Don’t use an oven or hob to heat a room – only use appliances for their intended purpose.
  • Candle safety – if you’re lighting candles to warm or brighten the home in these energy-conscious times, take special care

Emma Roberts, HWFRS Head of Prevention, said:

“We must all ensure that we’ve enough smoke alarms to cover our whole homes. If you don’t have enough, or they’re not in the right place, you might not be alerted in time.

“Most of us now have at least one smoke alarm in our homes, but early detection and warning are vital to reduce the devastation a fire can cause.

“That’s why it’s so important to have enough smoke alarms and that they are properly sited to have the best chance of alerting you and your loved ones to a fire.”

Emma added:

“Make sure you have at least one smoke alarm on every level of your home, preferably in hallways and landings. And placing smoke alarms near sleeping areas and in rooms with electrical appliances could give you even more warning.

“And don’t forget they don’t last forever. The power might work, but the detection mechanism deteriorates with time. So, whether they’re battery operated or mains-wired, to work at their best they should be replaced every ten years.

“Also, please don’t ignore a neighbour’s bleeping smoke alarm – it could well be a real fire and they might not have heard it.

“And finally,” added Emma, “don’t forget to test each of your smoke alarms regularly: Test it weekly on a Tuesday!”

You can find out more about fire safety at .hwfire.org.uk/safety-and-advice/, and you can also contact our Prevention Team on 0800 032 1155 to see if they might qualify for a free Home Fire Safety visit.

You can also complete a FREE online Home Fire Safety Check now by following the link on our website.

This easy-to-follow home fire safety check will take you through your home one room at a time and the simple questions will help you spot fire risks as you go around your home.

Further safety advice can be found at www.hwfire.org.uk .