There are thousands of house fires every year in Great Britain, and the simple fact is that many of these can be prevented with proper home fire safety protocol and basic equipment. Take smoke alarms for example. According to the UK government, smoke alarms were not present in the homes of 37% of the some 16,400 dwelling fires 2011. To think that something as simple and inexpensive as a smoke alarm could have prevented so many fire-related tragedies should be a call to action to those at home to be diligent about their fire safety.
The good news is that it doesn’t take much in terms of time or energy to ensure a fire-safe home. By covering these few simple steps outlined below, the homeowner can rest easy in the knowledge they are residing in a space at low risk for an electrical fire.
It’s vital that smoke alarms be installed in the proper locations of a home. These include every level of the house as well as in the bedrooms and just outside any sleeping area. But installing the requisite amount of smoke alarms is just the beginning; they need to be properly maintained as well. This means performing a check on each device every month as well as changing the batteries once a year. Smoke alarms should also be completely replaced after 10 years.
Cords connected to appliances or electronics should be checked periodically to ensure they are in good condition. Damaged cords with exposed or frayed wires can pose a fire and/or shock hazard. Also, it’s important to make sure cords in the home are not pinched or attached to anything with nails or staples. And cords should never be covered by rugs or carpeting, as this can stifle much-needed air flow around the cord. Above all else, extension cords should not be used as a permanent power source because they are designed solely for temporary use.
Outlets and switches
Faulty power outlets and switches cause their fare share of electrical fires. To this end, owners should inspect each switch to ensure they are in proper working order. Some warning signs to look for include:
- Outlets or switches that are warm to the touch
- Unusual noises emanating from a switch or outlet
- Loose-fitting plugs in an outlet
These can be signs of faulty wiring or a loose electrical connection, both of which can present significant fire hazards.
Appliances and lamps
Oftentimes people use bulbs in their light fixtures with incorrect wattage. This can present serious risk, as a light bulb with wattage higher than the fixture can accommodate can lead to overheating and, possibly, a fire. Those who are unsure of how much wattage a fixture can handle should err on the side of caution and opt for a 60-watt bulb.
As for appliances, all cords should be moved away from contact with heat sources. A cord running by a toaster, for example, can melt and possible lead to a fire in the home. This can be an issue with personal heaters as well. It’s important to make sure all portable heaters are at least three feet away from anything combustible, such as bedding or curtains.
By following these simple guidelines, the average homeowner can rest assured they are at minimal risk for a home fire.
Barry Atkins is Managing Director of Portable Appliance Safety Services, and writes about safety issues in the home and at work, including testing equipment like flue gas analysers. You can also find Barry on Google+