It’s Fire Prevention Week and in light of the campaign, which takes place Oct. 6 to 12, the Times caught up with deputy fire chief of Blackpool Fire Rescue, Mike Savage, for some tips on how residents can stay safe as they start using their chimneys for another season.
“Particularly, this time of year, make sure to check your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors and make sure the batteries have been changed and are functional,” said Savage.
“The other one, for those that are burning wood, make sure your chimney is clean and in proper functioning order prior to starting up for the season. It reduces the risk of chimney fires and calls to fire service to have to come.”
A further precaution for families to take is coming up with and practicing an escape plan in event of a fire, so everyone in the household knows what to do and where to go when things get urgent.
This includes knowing where the closest exits are, staying low to the ground to avoid smoke in the air, and meeting at an agreed muster point where everyone can be accounted for.
It also helps to know the common causes of house fires, so one can take measures to prevent them in the first place.
“Overloaded circuits and burning candles close to combustibles are common causes as well as heaters too close to combustibles that aren’t rated for it,” Savage said.
“Another one is pipes that freeze and putting a forced-air heater as opposed to getting under there with a torch; some places have erupted in flames because people are under there with a torch and it’s too close to combustibles, so use the hot air opposed to the actual flame.”
Something else to keep in mind that some may not realize is the type of furniture in the home and how it reacts to what is called flashover.
Flashover is the point of heat where everything in an enclosed space spontaneously ignites and Savage noted that older furnishings actually take longer to heat in a room than modern furnishings.
“Traditionally with legacy furniture, it takes about 29 minutes and 30 seconds, but with modern furnishings, it’s three minutes 45 seconds, so it’s fairly fast and fairly deadly,” he said.
“And the products of combustion in the smoke, are very toxic, so getting close to the floor immediately where there’s more air space, crawling out and with your practiced escape plan is paramount.”
The final piece of advice is to make sure your house number is proper, visible and in the right place so responders can easily find your location.
“We’ve had people who’ve had the wrong address, called and had trouble getting through to dispatch, whether ambulance, fire or police, because the address was incorrect,” added Savage.
“So if they need help, they can give us a call and we can check to make sure it’s mapping correctly.”