How to safeguard the vulnerable from house fires this winter

Lockdown could lead to a spike in house fires this winter, with elderly people being particularly vulnerable, according to safety experts.

Health and safety experts at CE Safety have warned that the UK’s lockdown has led to an increased risk of house fires as people spend more time indoors.

In the period March 2019 to March 2020, 243 people died in fire related incidents in England, and 82% of these were in people’s homes.

Those over the age of 65 are particularly vulnerable of suffering a fire in their home, and the risk doubles for those over 80.

Winter sees an increase in house fires due to candles, Christmas decs, and Brits spending more time indoors.

The Home Office’s online Incident Recording System (IRS) report that the biggest culprits of igniting accidental fires within the home are cooking appliances, accounting for 48% of all fires, followed by smokers’ materials and other household appliances.

Now experts from CE Safety have warned families to be wary of the dangers, look out for their elderly relatives and make sure their electrical appliances are safe.

A spokesperson for CE Safety said “The coronavirus pandemic has brought the importance of safeguarding our fellow humans into sharp focus.

“As we head into a winter that could be awash with isolation and continued lockdown for some time yet, taking care of our families, friends and neighbours will remain at the forefront of our concerns.

“And the very real threat of accidental fires in the home are ever-more alarming as this year’s Home Office figures reveal that someone is more likely to die in a fire in their home if they’re elderly, and if they live alone.”

Here’s how to help the most vulnerable people avoid risk of fire in their homes. A short conversation might be all you need to have with an elderly or vulnerable person in order to get the fire safety message across and find out how at-risk they are. Here are some of the most important questions to ask.

Have they got a smoke alarm?

This should be never overlooked, and Home Office statisticians have worked out that you are eight times more likely to die in a house fire if you do not have a working smoke alarm. So a smoke alarm should be working properly and be within range of the places a fire is most likely to start.

Check how they’re cooking

Impart general advice about cooking and fires within the kitchen. Help them understand the importance of double-checking if all appliances are off.

It’s also vital to keep flammables away from surfaces and open flames, and to throw away old oil in pans and crumbs in the toaster.

Do they own dangerous appliances?

Find out the make and models of their main household appliances and do a quick check online into whether they are the type that have had problems in recent years. Recently Whirlpool hit the headlines for faulty washing machines. A quick online check of the serial number can put minds at ease.

How are they living?

Have the conversation or around how they are living, and whether they could be any potential fire risks in their home. How is the wear and tear of their wiring? Are they keeping areas around plugs and electrics clutter-free? Even a build-up of dust close to sockets and heaters can ignite a flame.

Smoking

Smoking and ashtrays are the biggest killer from fires in the home. So we all need to stress the importance of being ultra-careful with smoking materials around the home. Watch out and make sure cigarettes are extinguished properly and talk to them about never smoking in bed.

Hidden dangers

It might be surprising to people that fires can start in the most obscure ways – from the sun having a magnifying effect from glass ornaments or vases on windowsill onto curtains or carpets, igniting a flame.

Hair styling tools being left on are also a danger, as is overloading sockets, leaving appliances running during the night or electric blankets being on for too long. It might seem obvious but it’s not to everyone.

The three Cs: Candles, chimneys and Christmas lights

We should all be reminded to be careful with the things we bring out exclusively in winter, when it’s cold outside. There’s very little ventilation and everyone tends to be indoors more. Candles, chimneys and Christmas lights are responsible for fires in homes every year, so let people know how important it is to be careful with them.

Plan an escape route

In the event the worst does happen, then there is far more likelihood of having a better outcome if a plan has been put in place beforehand. Knowing where to get help, who to contact, how to respond, what to do and how to keep calm will give everyone a little more peace of mind too.

For more information on how to help keep vulnerable people safe during an especially isolated autumn and winter, please visit https://cesafety.co.uk/the-elderly-and-vulnerable-need-you-this-winter-a-guide-to-avoiding-fires-in-the-home/

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