According to statistics provided by “Making the Link,” a British accident prevention organization, the number of accidental fire deaths in UK homes are down 40% over the last decade. This is due to a number of reasons, not the least is the positive impact of fire safety programs and increased fire safety awareness throughout the country. That said, the fact that there were still 31,000 accidental dwelling fires in 2011-2012 means there is still work to do.
For example, according to the British government, 16,400 of the accidental dwelling fires in 2011 occurred in homes without a working smoke alarm. To think that so many fires could have been prevented had just one of these relatively inexpensive safety devices been implemented should give people pause.
So in the interest of continuing to reduce fire statistics across the country, here are some tips the average person can practice in order to maintain a household safe from accidental fires.
Install smoke alarms
As mentioned above, installing functional smoke alarms throughout the home can help reduce accidental fires. This means installing smoke alarms inside the sleeping area, outside the sleeping area and on every level of the home as well. But it isn’t enough to merely install smoke alarms; they need to be maintained as well. To do this, those with smoke alarms in their home should commit to once-a-month checks and replacing the batteries once a year.
Many cords plugged into multiple outlets throughout the home can present a fire hazard and thus should be checked periodically to ensure they are generally in good condition and aren’t otherwise frayed or damaged. This is because frayed cords can present a risk of shock as well as being a fire hazard. Also, it’s important to never cover cords with carpeting or rugs, as this can restrict air flow and cause damage to the cord.
Look for faulty outlets and switches
A healthy portion of dwelling fires in the UK are caused by faulty power outlets and switches. To cut down on the risk of these types of fires, residents should perform periodic checks of their home’s outlets and switches. Some warning signs to look for include
1. Noises coming from the outlet
2. Plugs that don’t attach firmly to the socket (loose plugs)
3. Switches or outlets that are warm to the touch
Any of the above can be signs of bad wiring or insecure electrical connections – both of which are a fire hazard.
Household appliances should never be used in contact with heat sources, such as stoves or ovens. Even more subtle scenarios, such the cord of a blender running around a toaster, can present a fire hazard. And, of course, portable heaters should be kept at least three feet away from anything flammable.
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Consider light-bulb wattage
Unfortunately, many people use light bulbs with a wattage rating not properly suited to the fixtures they are plugged into in the home. Needless to say, this can present a fire hazard. The best course of action for those who don’t know how much wattage their fixtures are equipped for is to be on the safe side and use a 60-watt bulb.
By adhering to these simple tips and guidelines, residents of the UK can do their part to reduce the occurrence of dwelling fires and protect themselves and their families in the process.
Barry Atkins is Managing Director of Portable Appliance Safety Services, and writes about safety issues in the home and at work, including test meters and other equipment. You can also find Barry on Google+