Christmas is the best time of the year for many reasons. Spending time with family and friends, the tree, the lights, cosy evenings by the fire, parties, presents and festive tunes are all reasons to adore Christmas.
So, during this busy and happy time of year, we don’t mean to put a dampener on your Christmas celebrations by going on about the risks of fire. But, it’s important, so we’re going to. A fire could be totally devastating. It could be fatal. Of course, you already know that.
Please read these important tips and make sure you and yours are as protected as much as possible this Christmas.
TEST YOUR SMOKE ALARMS OFTEN
We’re assuming you have smoke alarms in your house. If you don’t, stop reading this immediately and go and buy some. Or you can contact your local fire brigade for advice as some offer a free Home Fire Risk Check (find the number online DON’T call 999 for this please!) You should have AT LEAST one smoke alarm on every level of your home but, to be honest, more is better.
Smoke alarms can and will save your life in the event of a fire. But they’re no use to you if they don’t work. Test them once a week and replace the batteries once a year or if they no longer work.
Please read the advice from the government’s Fire Kills Campaign on the proper use of smoke alarms here.
TURN ELECTRICAL APPLIANCES OFF
Christmas tree lights, outside lights, illuminated window decorations etc. all make Christmas extra special. However, you should switch them off and unplug them when you’re not home and during the night.
This advice actually applies to all appliances in your home. When not in use they should be switched off and unplugged. A washing machine or television left on stand-by could cause a fire if a fault develops. Any appliance that is drawing in current has the potential to fault. This may only be the cause of a small proportion of fires, but why run the risk?
So make sure everything not in use is switched off at the mains and unplugged. This includes the washing machine and tumble drier. As well as saving you some pennies from your energy bill, taking this simple action could prevent a fire.
Also, don’t leave your washing machine, tumble drier or dishwasher on when you go out or overnight – just in case it causes a fire to start.
DON’T OVERLOAD SOCKETS
You may find yourself using extension leads at Christmastime to enable you to use all your lights and decorations. Don’t be tempted to overload a socket and never plug an extension lead into another extension lead to add more to it. Be mindful of how much power each of the items you have plugged in uses. High powered appliances should not be plugged in to extension leads. For more information on the correct use of extension leads please read this leaflet.
TAKE CARE IN THE KITCHEN
Most house fires start in the kitchen so you should be extra careful here. Never leave the kitchen unattended when something is cooking. Also, don’t cook if you’ve been drinking alcohol. Save the wine or Baileys until the Christmas dinner is cooked and on the table!
HAVE YOUR CHIMNEY SWEPT
Chestnuts roasting on an open fire… If you have an open fire, it will most certainly be in use a lot at this time of year.
Please make sure you have your chimney swept. An unswept chimney represents a fire hazard.
Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue produced this hilarious video of firefighters dancing to Step in Time from Mary Poppins to get the point across. Well worth a watch if you want to see a cartwheeling fire fighter! And there is useful safety advice about open fires scrolling along the bottom too.
BE CAREFUL WITH CANDLES
Candles are another Christmas tradition, really adding to the festive atmosphere in a home. However, they prevent a significant fire hazard. Please never leave a candle unattended, even if you just pop out of the room for a few minutes. It’s just not worth it. Also, never place candles near your Christmas tree or anything else that could catch fire. Candles should always be placed in an appropriate holder.
HAVE A PLAN
In the unlikely and unfortunate event of a fire, do you have an evacuation plan? Do you know who would get the children and which way you would exit your house? If you don’t have one, you should think about making one and ensuring that the whole family knows it. There’s more advice on how to make an evacuation plan in this handy leaflet.
If a fire starts, follow the fire brigade’s advice ‘Get Out. Stay Out. And call 999’. If there’s lots of smoke, stay as low down as possible because the air is clearer further down.
NEVER waste time trying to grab important paperwork or high value items before you evacuate.
Sleep with your front door keys and your phone next to you on your bedside table. That way, in an emergency, you won’t waste valuable time scrabbling around trying to find them. You will be able to exit quickly and then call the fire brigade right away.
Please note that these tips are not exhaustive and you should not rely on them solely. The government’s Fire Kills campaign has produced many fire safety leaflets – you can access them all from here. There is a specific Christmas Fire Safety leaflet available here. And you can also contact your local fire brigade for advice.