There is only one type of fire emergency, the unexpected type. That’s why fire safety and prevention are important habits to develop. But very few of us seem to take fire safety seriously. How long has it been since you last checked the batteries in your smoke alarms? How many times have you moved to a new place since the last time you designated and regularly practised a fire safety plan in your home?
If the answer to either of those questions is that it has been a while, then may we suggest a brief refresher in the most basic fire safety practises? Since fires aren’t known for preventing themselves, below is a list of a few things we wanted to remind you of.
Have a well-considered escape plan
In the event of a fire, remember time is the biggest enemy and every second counts. In under a minute a tiny flickering flame can grow into a life-threatening blaze. Within just a few minutes an entire house can fill with black smoke. Deciding what to do beforehand will help make your decisions quick and decisive in the event of a fire emergency. Develop a home fire escape plan, and review and practise it frequently with your family and/or roommates.
Each household occupant should familiarise themselves with the living space, and identify two ways to safely escape from every room, then share and discuss that knowledge with one another. An effective fire escape plan should deliver all occupants to a predetermined rally point, outside the building within thirty seconds. NSW Fire & Rescue recommends performing drills with fire escape plans at least twice per year.
Smoke kills more often than flames
A solid fire escape plan needs to take smoke into account at least as much as it does the actual fire. That’s because fire casualties typically result from smoke inhalation long before the flames overtake victims. Oftentimes, victims never waken to signs of the burning building before asphyxiating on toxic fumes. While well designed structures have ventilation systems that will passively evacuate gaseous build ups that accumulate within the enclosed space, structural damages incurred during a fire incident can negate those kinds of design latencies eventually. Therefore, education regarding the dangers of smoke involved with fire incidents is paramount to survival.
NSW Fire & Rescue recommends never standing, or walking upright while escaping a structure fire. Instead it’s always best crawl under the smoke while keeping your mouth covered with a handkerchief, loose article of clothing, or just your hand. Try very seriously not to breathe the smoke, and once clear of danger, never return to a burning building for any reason. It may cost your life, and that just wouldn’t be worth it.
Use candles with caution
It’s true, candle light does lend a nice, elemental ambiance to a room, and in the event of power outages candles become the typical lighting solution for most households, but when not tended diligently, they also become the cause of house fires. According to NSW.gov.au, New South Wales Fire Brigade attended 154 candle-related house fires in the 22 months leading to April 2011. Over half of the reported candle-related fires occur when candles are arranged too near to combustible household items like curtains, mattresses, and other furniture.
The risk of candle fires appears higher when candles are used for lighting. So if alternative lighting is the reason why you’re keeping candles on hand, perhaps you should consider battery-operated, flameless candles as a safer alternative. If you do elect to stick with candles, it is important to ensure they are contained in sturdy metal, glass, or ceramic holders, and placed a minimum of 25 centimetres from anything combustible, and on stable surfaces where they will be less likely to get knocked about. NSW Fire & Rescue also recommends avoiding the use of candles in sleeping areas where possible, and that all candles should be unconditionally extinguished before going to bed.
A call to your local fire brigade can help inform and supply a comprehensive fire safety plan specific to your living space and locality. While there may be some inconveniences involved with devising a plan, it’s definitely preferable to have fire safety practises in place and never need them, than to need them and not have them. Make sure you have a Home and Contents insurance policy if the worst does happen.