I spent 12 years as a Risk Reduction Officer for the Fire and Rescue Service, and am passionate that fire safety is taken seriously throughout the lettings sector. In my former career, I was involved in the aftermath of all domestic dwelling fires in my area, which meant looking for patterns and finding ways to reduce the risks for householders. In all my years, I have only very rarely been involved in fatal fires where a working smoke alarm has been present!
Having a working smoke alarm will save you and your family if a fire occurs, because of this it is important you test your smoke alarm on a regular basis – how about once a week? Some fire services recommend “Test it Tuesday” – get the kids involved, give them a broom handle or similar reaching device, and ask them to press the button with it. This system will help to reinforce this as normal housekeeping, that the kids can then utilise when they leave home! You may wish to help an elderly/disabled neighbour or family member to do this too, as they may take longer to escape if a fire occurs, it is very important they have working smoke alarms – people who may struggle to hear an alarm or react to it, may need a specialist alarm, these are usually provided free of charge/at a small cost – call your local fire service community safety team for details.
If you use a battery smoke alarm, choose one day a year for it’s birthday, and treat it to a new battery – involve the kids in this too!
It’s all very well having the alarm in place, but don’t leave it until 2 O’clock in the morning to think about what to do if it goes off… think about an escape route, close all doors at bedtime, and unplug unnecessary appliances where possible, put water in ashtrays. A closed door will hold a fire back for at least 20 minutes, so if you can’t escape safely (never walk through smoke/flames to escape – or jump from upstairs windows), you can get all of the family in one room, close the door, block and gaps allowing smoke in, open the window, call 999 and alert your neighbours by shouting “FIRE”, then breathe fresh cool air whilst the fire service come to get you out safely. Keeping keys by the door, will aid your escape, if you can safely escape. GET OUT, GET THE FIRE SERVICE OUT, STAY OUT! NEVER RE-ENTER THE BUILDING UNTIL TOLD IT IS SAFE TO DO SO, BY THE FIRE SERVICE.
Ruth Clayton – Director Professional Inventory Management Services Ltd