Fire Safety in the Home
Fire safety should not just be a concern in the workplace, it should also be a concern in the home. There are many risks associated with fire, but the biggest of all is the cost of life.
This month we take a look at Fire Safety in the home, as opposed to in the workplace like our qualifications.
The first thing that we need to do is look at what a fire needs in order to survive and spread. There are 3 things that a fire needs in order to develop, these are:
- Heat and,
The first thing that a fire needs is an ignition source. If we take away the heat source there will be nothing to start the fire. In the home there are many sources of ignition which include:
- Portable Heaters,
- Candles and other naked flames,
- Electrical Equipment, and
It goes without saying that oxygen is all around us, in fact there is 20.95% oxygen in the air around us! If you are able to when exiting your home in a fire close windows and doors as you go to starve the fire of additional oxygen.
The other difficulty that we have in stopping a fire in the workplace, is the fact that nearly everything can burn. This means that most objects in the house can fuel the fire and keep it burning, this will include:
- Wood, and
This knowledge we are sure is not new information, but it is important that we consider this and think about the items in our homes and how we can reduce the risk of fires.
How do Fires Spread?
The are 6 ways that a fire can spread, here we take a look at these ways, in order to give a wider understand of this important issue:
This is the way that fire normally spreads until the heat builds up enough to be spread by other methods. Fire travels along or through any combustible material that it comes into contact with.
Heat can be transferred by electromagnetic waves, this is why you feel heat from the sun. Radiation fire spread can spread a fire when a bonfire has been built and ignited too close to a garden fence, thus igniting a fire in the fence if enough of the heat reaches it.
Some materials can readily absorb heat and transfer it across their structure. This is called thermal conduction. Metals are particularly good at conducting heat. Heat can be conducted from room to room as it is transferred through walls and/or steelwork. A fire will start in the next room if there is a fuel source there as the temperature gets high enough to ignite the fuel. In your own home you will have experienced conduction of heat with your saucepan handle getting hot, even though it is not in direct contact with the heat source.
We all know that warm air rises. The movement of hot air and gases in a fire can lead to a build up of heat at a higher point from the original fire. This build up will happen anywhere that the air is trapped and cannot move any higher, this could be in lofts, voids in the roof as well as stair wells. This build up could now be a long way from the fire, but if there is enough heat, fuel and oxygen a fire will also start here.
A Flashover is a temperature driven event that changes a ‘fire in a room’ into a ‘a room on fire’. Should a fire be well ventilated and has a source of fuel, gases and hot smoke will build up in the higher areas of the room through convection. Once established the hot gas layer will then radiate heat downwards onto all the exposed surfaces. Once the temperature has reached about 500°C all the combustible material will give out flammable fire gases. Near simultaneous ignition of all fuels can then occur. We believe that seeing is believing with this fire spread, therefore you can see a demonstration video of this here:
As we discussed earlier a fire needs 3 things to develop and survive. When an established fire has little or no ventilation, the lack of oxygen causes the flames to ‘die’ out. The smoke in the room will contain partially burnt particles and there may also be flammable gases present. If a window breaks or a door opens, air will rush into the room and any source of ignition could fully re-ignite the fire, gases and particles. This can happen with explosive force as this video shows:
Now let’s take a look at a few things to consider inside your own home.
Electrical Equipment and Safety
Electrical risks can either be from faulty equipment or from the misuse of the electrical equipment itself. A high percentage of faults can be found by simply looking at it. What should you look for on your electrical equipment?
- Cable damage (Cuts or abrasions to the cable covering),
- Damage to the plug (Broken pins or cracked casing),
- Loose cables,
- Signs of overheating (Burn marks, staining or melted plastic), or
- Bare wires.
Should you find any of these concerns on your electrical equipment, it will either need to be replaced or have a suitably qualified person to undertake any repairs necessary.
In the home, we all use extension leads, there are a few things that need to be remembered when doing so. If you use coiled extension leads, you need to ensure that they are fully extended when in use, as the coil will generate heat and cause the casing to become fuel for a fire.
Are you still using cube adapters? The use of these should be avoided as the electricity going through them can arc, spark and overheat causing a fire risk.
Should you need to run more plug from a socket, you should use gang leads, however you should never exceed the current rating for the lead, just because there are 4 sockets in the gang lead it does not mean that 4 plugs can be plugged in. If the rating of the gang lead is 13Amp this must not be exceeded. Therefore 2 5Amp plugs and a 3Amp plug would be maximum, and would mean that the 4th plug socket in the gang would have to remain empty.
We know that some people use portable heaters instead of or as well as their central heating system to warm their homes. If this is you then you will need to follow 3 simple rules:
- Don’t put anything on top of the heater,
- Don’t put it where it can be knocked over, and
- Make sure that there are no sources of fuel anywhere near the heater.
Smoking within the home is a fire risk that needs to be considered. There are some very simple things that can be done to reduce the risk of fire from smoking in the home.
- Never leave a cigarette burning in an ashtray,
- Always ensure that ash and butts are disposed of in a sturdy/proper ashtray safely,
- When emptying the ashtray, ensure that the ashes and butts are out and cold,
- Avoid smoking when tired or under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and
- Always empty the ashtray outside as part your night time routine.
It is best practice for a home to have as a minimum at least 1 working fire detector per floor. The detectors should be located in places that cover your means of escape in a fire. The detector should be tested weekly and vacuumed monthly to remove any dust particles.
Your night-time routine is an important part of reducing the risk of a fire in your home. Your routine once started, after a while will become second nature. The routine should entail checking everything is switched off, closed and locked. Things to consider include:
- All sockets switched off, (Don’t leave TVs on standby),
- Close all doors,
- Turn off fires,
- Make sure all cigarettes are extinguished properly,
- Make sure candles are extinguished,
- Lock doors (Keeping the key near the door, or take it to bed with you),
- Have a telephone by your bed,
- Ensure the escape route is clear.
When it comes to the doors being locked it is important for your security that you have locked your doors, however from a fire safety point of view it is important that everyone knows where the key is. What if the worse case scenario happens, you have left your key in the kitchen, and that is the room where the fire is, how will you get out?
An escape route is your route to take should there be a fire or other emergency that means you have to evacuate your house in a hurry. The escape route should be your normal way out of the house, and as part of your night time routine you need to ensure that this is clear of obstructions. It is a good idea to have an alternative route in your mind should your escape route become blocked.
In the event of a fire
- Evacuate the building using your escape route as quickly and safely as possible,
- Do NOT try to gather belongings as you exit the building,
- Call 999/112 and ask for the fire service,
- Wait in a safe place away from the building.
If you catch fire:
- Dial 999/112.