House fires – are you prepared?
You never know when a fire will start in your home. All it takes is a spark, a little oxygen, something to burn, and a split second in which you're not paying attention. If you take the right preventive measures, you could significantly reduce the risks, here’s how:
Smoke alarms are the first line of defense as there's never smoke without fire. Install at least one smoke detector on each floor, as well as one near your bedroom.
It’s also important to keep a fire extinguisher in a central, easily located place, or one in every room.
Make sure everyone in your household knows where the extinguisher is and how to use it. Check it monthly for leaks.
Reduce fuel sources
Keep gutters free of leaves and grass; these can be ignited by embers and carried by the wind. Store any firewood or dry compost at a safe distance from your house. If you live on the edge of a suburb, close to an open field and natural vegetation, clear away any dry woody plants from around your property's boundaries.
Fire always seeks things to burn so you must avoid clutters like stacks of boxes, papers and linen. A messy house is a playground for blazes.
Check heating appliances
To ensure peace of mind, have your electrical installation inspected by a certified electrician just before the start of winter. Check that your household appliances have a label of a testing laboratory, indicating that it meets basic safety requirements.
Don’t overload sockets
Don’t overload plug sockets and avoid using several high-amperage appliances (any appliance that produces heat) on the same circuit. Dust, cobwebs and spider webs are enough to start a fire in an electrical system.
Where there’s smoke…
If you woke up to the smell of smoke, would you know what to do? Here are tips to follow in case your house, or something in it, catches on fire:
- If a fire starts while you are cooking, put a lid over the burning pan or use a fire extinguisher. Stock some baking soda as it will also choke off the fire. Never throw water on burning fat or an oil fire, as it will cause an explosive reaction.
- If a fire breaks out and you are trapped in a smoke-filled room, make your way to the door by crawling below the smoke. The purest air is closest to the floor.
- If you crawl to your door and the door knob is warm, do not open it. Use an alternative exit like a window.
- Don't stop to gather possessions or call the fire station, you have to get yourself and your family out of the house immediately. Once you are safely out of the house, then you can call the fire department.
It is important to remember that possessions can be replaced but lives cannot. Protect yourself and your family by planning an exit strategy. Make sure everyone in your house is aware of this plan by having a practice drill every six months or so. These preventative measures could be the difference between life and death.