I read with huge sadness the terrible story of the Smith family that had been tragically destroyed by a house fire earlier this week.

4 children from the same family all died as they were overcome by smoke and fumes from a fire that started in their home.

My thoughts are with them right now, and in deed, all of those affected by this horrific danger..

As always, it’s sad times like these that jolt us to take stock, and it’s perhaps a good opportunity to consider how we can prevent accidents like this from happening in the future.

Whilst most of the following is common sense, I think it’s always worth pointing out the obvious in a hope that we take more notice and precautions in the future.

First – A Few Statistics

From the UK National Statistics, between April 2010 and March 2011 there were

  • 321 fire fatalities, and over
     
  • 9000 non-fatalities as a result of house fires.
     
  • It is worth noting that “Smokers Materials” were the source of ignition in the fires that accounted for roughly 1/3 of these fatalities.
     
  • Smoke alarms were absent from the fire area in 37% of dwelling fires.
     
  • Of all the fatalities, 37% had no smoke alarms and a further 25% had smoke alarms that were not working
     
  • Just over half of all accidental house fires were as a result of cooking, but other common sources were electrical appliances, electrical distribution, smokers’ materials, and space heating appliances

Safety Tips

So, what are the tips that can help to keep you safe?

Plan your escape route

  • Plan your escape in advance – and make sure everyone in your house knows the plan – how to get out – different exit routes depending on fire location – and meeting point outside.
     
  • Keep escape routes clear from clutter and furniture (could you escape with limited visibility, in the dark, with a smoke-filled room?)
     
  • Consider Emergency call alarms to automatically alert the emergency services in the case of fire – similar to burglar and intruder panic alarms
     
  • If you suspect Fire – Escape

Smoke is a killer so…

  • Delay the spread of smoke by closing doors to the area of fire and close all doors behind you as you make your exit
     
  • Check for heat before you open doors
     
  • You and your family are the only possessions you should be concerned with getting out of the building
     
  • Once out – stay out – Call the emergency services out
     
  • Try to stay calm – speak clearly and concisely – but only do this when you are safe or if you are unable to exit safely

If you Can’t Escape

  • Get as far away from the fire as possible – close doors and seal them with towels or blankets – preferably wet if possible
     
  • Smoke rises so stay low and get to a window if possible
     
  • Open windows and raise the alarm by shouting FIRE – not HELP!
     
  • If you’re not too high – exit via the window – drop cusions, bedding, anything that can help soften your landing
     
  • Hang from the window and drop – this will reduce the distance you fall

Prevention

  • Fit smoke alarms at key points in your home – landings, hallways – areas where fire could prevent your escape

This is probably the single most important thing you can do to protect your life from house fire

  • Test alarms regularly – event those connected directly to the mains
     
  • Always check appliances are switched off that aren’t designed to remain on
     
  • Ensure all cigarettes are extinguished fully
     
  • Close all doors to all rooms
     
  • Take care when cooking – especially with hot oils
     
  • Equip your kitchen with fire blankets or suitable extinguishers
     
  • Ensure all DIY, (wiring and gas) is carried out by trained professionals and certified

These are just a few tips – but there are many more on a variety of websites such as…

FIRESAFE

DIRECT-GOV Fire Safety

As a Self Defence Specialist, when I read through these tips, it strikes me as being very similar to the guidance I would give for protection against personal attack, burglary, robbery, etc.

Prevent the incident from happening in the first place

If it happens – stay safe and escape as a first priority

Only face the Fire, Intruder, Attacker as an absolute last resort and escape at the first opportunity

No possessions are worth risking your life for

Al x

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