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Home fire safety guidance

Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service has maintained our core functions throughout the coronavirus pandemic, responding to incidents and protecting those most vulnerable in our communities. We continue to review our response and, like you, we are following all Government guidelines.

Whatever the situation, we will always be here for you if you need us in an emergency.

With people continuing to work from home and be in their home for longer periods, our fire safety risks remain. Reduced contact with friends/family and entertainment outside the home raises risks of potential to find other ways to pass the time. We recognise an increased use of electrical items, specifically mobile phones, tablets, laptops and game stations, to maintain contact with those around us which leads to increased charging.

Those who are ill and potentially ill for longer periods will be more tired and less able to perform normal routine tasks, more likely to forget cooking or testing smoke alarms.

Moving into the winter months encourages the return to heating our homes, more often and during the day if working from home and thinking about portable heaters, alongside the additional use of log burners and open fires – possibly making use of chimneys not swept during any lockdown period or homeowners isolating.

The change in season increases our use and reliance on tumble dryers, please don’t forget to clean out the filter and don’t use overnight or when you leave the house.

We are asking everyone to be extra careful, to avoid fires happening in the first place. Most accidental house fires start in the kitchen. Please take extra care if you’re cooking.

We would ask the people of Norfolk to continue their efforts help us by following safety guidelines - as directed by the Government - and ensuring that children and teenagers are also supported during this time. Although our schools and colleges are open, the difficult ongoing environment places pressure on young people where they might become involved in anti-social behaviour, including setting fires.

Responding to deliberately-set fires can endanger lives by taking vital firefighting resources away from other emergencies – and deliberate fires could even lead to fatalities themselves.
Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service understands how stressful this environment can be and that’s why we want to make sure people stay as safe as possible.

Switch off any electrical items you’re not using.

If you use a charger, for a phone or laptop for example, don’t leave it plugged in and switched on when you’re asleep or not using it.

And if you use a portable heater, remember not to put it close to things that could easily catch fire, like bedding, clothes, soft furnishings or curtains. Whenever possible, especially when you’re asleep, keep all internal doors closed. This helps to stop fire spreading. If a fire does happen, don’t be tempted to tackle it yourself. Get out (closing doors as you go), stay out and call 999.

Kitchen fires

Kitchen fires account for nearly two thirds of accidental fires at home, but many can be easily avoided.

  • Make sure you don’t get distracted when you’re cooking
  • Take pans off the heat, or turn the heat down, if you need to leave the kitchen
  • Make sure handles don’t stick out, so pans don’t get knocked off the hob
  • Take care if you’re wearing loose clothing, which can easily catch fire, and keep tea towels and cloths a safe distance away from the cooker
  • Never leave children alone in the kitchen
  • Double check the cooker is off when you’ve finished
  • Don’t cook if you’ve been drinking alcohol or taken medication that makes you drowsy

Smoking and safety

If you smoke, keep matches and lighters away from children, and double check that your cigarette is properly extinguished when finished. Try not to smoke if you’ve been drinking alcohol and avoid smoking in bed or if you’re feeling sleepy. If you can do so safely, smoke outdoors.

Fires caused by smoking materials (including cigarettes, roll-ups, cigars and pipe tobacco) result in more fatalities than any other type of fire. If you smoke in your home, please consider these suggestions:

  • Make sure your cigarette is fully extinguished: Put it out, right out
  • Take extra care when you’re tired, taking any sort of drugs or have been drinking alcohol. It’s very easy to fall asleep while your cigarette is still burning. Never smoke in bed. If you need to lie down, don’t light up
  • Never leave lit cigarettes, cigars or pipes unattended – they can easily overbalance as they burn down
  • Use a proper, heavy ashtray that can’t tip over easily and is made of a material that won’t burn
  • Tap your ash into an ashtray, never a wastebasket containing other rubbish – and don’t let the ash or cigarette ends build up in the ashtray
  • Do not empty the hot contents of an ashtray into a bin. A drop of water in the ashtray will help to make it safe, then leave it to cool down fully
  • Keep matches and lighters out of children’s reach. Ideally, buy child-resistant lighters and matchboxes

Electrical equipment

Our homes are filled with electrical equipment. We are going to be using them more often than usual so staying safe is really important. Understanding how to look after these items and following manufacturers’ instructions.

Mobile phones, tablets and laptops are vital in keeping us connected and communicating but please consider these suggestions:

  • Never leave items charging under pillows or on/in your bed
  • Don’t overcharge items. Once they’re charged, unplug them
  • Don’t use fake chargers – always use branded, genuine plugs and cables
  • If cables become broken, frayed or damaged, stop using and replace them
  • Check that the output voltage and current ratings marked on the charger and your electrical device are the same
  • Always buy goods from reputable retailers and check they meet British safety standards

Smoke alarms

A working smoke alarm is the most critical piece of lifesaving equipment any home can possess and the early warning it provides can mean the difference between life and death.

Early detection allows for the quickest reaction to alerting emergency services and time to escape safely. It is one of the cheapest but most effective pieces of safety equipment available. You should have working smoke alarms on every level of your home.

A smoke alarm with the batteries missing will not save lives. Change the battery every year (unless it’s a ten-year alarm) or when you need to. Alarms give out an intermittent bleep to let you know the battery’s running low.

It is recommended that you give each alarm a gentle wipe or vacuum regularly to remove any dust or dirt particle build up, this can interfere with the correct working of the alarm.

The 12% of properties that do not own a smoke alarm account for approx. 40% of fire fatalities. Smoke alarms do save lives but only if they are correctly fitted, working and regularly tested. #TestItTuesday

High-rise blocks and towers

If you live in a high-rise block or tower please consider the following tips, although they apply to all homes. If you can’t escape, you’ll need to find a room to take refuge in. This is especially important if you have difficulty moving around on your own.

  • Make sure you know the escape plan for your particular building– your landlord has a legal duty to provide one
  • Keep exits clear – in your own flat and in shared areas
  • Never wedge a fire door open
  • Don’t make changes to your flat’s front door without seeking advice from the managing agency
  • Keep corridors and stairwells clear and tidy, e.g. do not leave rubbish or old furniture there
  • The best escape route is your usual way in and out of your home
  • Make sure everyone knows where your door and window keys are kept
  • Think of any difficulties you may have getting out, e.g. at night you may need a torch
  • Keep the route and exits clear of obstructions
  • Think about how children, older or disabled people or pets will get out
  • Decide a second escape route, in case your first choice is blocked

Slips, trips and falls

A reduction in our ability to get out and about freely, especially with the winter weather, and reducing the number of people within the home it can be tempting to complete DIY projects ourselves. These activities can increase the opportunity for accidents to happen. Reaction times can be slower if you are feeling ill or have not been active in your usual routine. Older people may be tempted to fix something themselves or over-reach because family, friends or carers aren’t able to visit as often.

  • Give yourself plenty of time for the task in hand, don’t rush and have the right tools available
  • Try to keep exit ways clear and don’t leave things on the stairs for later
  • Make sure any ladders are stable and avoid over-reaching
  • Make sure you are wearing the correct safety equipment and that includes the children who may be enjoying their bike or scooter in the garden
  • Don’t leave electric cables or wires trailing across floors
  • Stay home, stay safe

Find out more about  looking after yourself and your household during the coronavirus outbreak.

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