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National Fire Safety Week

NATIONAL FIRE SAFETY WEEK 3rd – 10th October 2011

“No Going Back to Save a Life”

General:

The theme of Fire Safety Week 2011, which is from 3rd–10th October, reminds us of the importance of having working smoke alarms installed in your home and to think constructively about fire safety in advance of winter, when statistically most fire tragedies occur. The average smoke alarm costs approximately €10, which is a small price to pay for peace of mind. Remember, your sense of smell does not work when you are asleep and the smoke from a fire can induce a deep sleep. By waking you up in the early stages of a fire, a smoke alarm can literally save your life. In the event of a fire never re-enter the house – remember get out, stay out and get the fire brigade out.

Statistics:

On average forty six people died in fires in the Republic of Ireland each year since 1998. The vast majority of these are fires occurred in domestic dwellings. Unfortunately a number of these dwellings did not have working smoke alarms. Tragically, most of these deaths could have been prevented if working smoke alarms were installed in the home.

Smoke Alarm Facts:

• Most fires happen at night when people are asleep. By installing smoke alarms –you will have early warning devices which can give you time to act before you and your family are overcome by dangerous fumes and smoke.

• As a general guide there should be a minimum of one smoke alarm installed for each floor in the house i.e. one in the hall and one on the landing. For additional fire protection you should consider installing smoke detectors in the kitchen and living rooms. The Building Regulations require you to have mains powered smoke / heat detectors in your home.

• Heat alarms can also be installed in the certain areas of the house e.g. Kitchen, where fumes from cooking could lead to unwanted alarms.

• If someone at home is hearing impaired they may not hear an audible smoke alarm i.e. if they do not wear a hearing aid at night. There are smoke alarm systems on the market that use a strobe light or a vibrating pad (that can be placed under the pillow), to provide early warning in the event of a fire.

• Test your smoke alarm weekly to ensure it is working correctly, by pressing the test button. If the alarm fails to sound or if you hear the ‘low battery’ beeping sound, replace the battery. Some smoke alarms now come with a ten year (lithium) battery. These alarms are designed to be replaced as a whole unit thus avoiding the need for battery replacement. If in any doubt replace the smoke alarm.

• Smoke alarms should be positioned at ceiling level i.e. at the highest point in the room, in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.

• Keep the smoke alarm clean. Dust and debris can interfere with their operation, so vacuum over and around your smoke alarm regularly. If you have a mains powered smoke alarm, follow the manufacturers’ guidance in relation to cleaning.

• Ensure that everyone in the household is familiar with the sound of the smoke alarm and has practiced and perfected the evacuation drill.

• When buying a smoke alarm ensure that it conforms to one of the following standards:

Irish Standard IS 409 : 1998

British Standard BS 5446

• Finally, if your smoke alarm sounds never assume it’s a false alarm! – always act immediately. Better to be safe than sorry.

In addition to this year’s fire safety week theme, the following essential fire safety measures should also be considered:

1. Make a Fire Escape Plan for your Family and perfect it.

Often, when a fire breaks out, confusion and errors follow. If you have a well-practised fire evacuation drill you will be better able to deal with an emergency situation. A well rehearsed fire escape drill can make all the difference.

The fire escape plan should consist of the following basic fire prevention steps:

1. Unplug all electrical equipment before going to bed at night.

2. Close all doors downstairs before you go to be at night, particularly the doors to the Kitchen and Living Room.

3. Make sure you bring a phone upstairs with you at night so that you can call the Fire Brigade in the event of a fire.

Statistics show that most fires start at night in either the Kitchen or the Living Room. The following points should be considered when making your fire escape plan:

1. The family members should plan two escape routes to get out of the house.

2. Decide on one meeting point outside the house.

3. Practice the plan until perfect.

4. Close all doors behind you as you leave.

5. The stairs are the primary escape route – keep them clear.

6. Do not re-enter the house for any reason.

7. Phone the fire brigade from a nearby outside phone.

However, if you wake during the night and you cannot use the stairs as a means of escape from the fire, these steps should be followed:

1. If the hall is filled with smoke do not go downstairs to try to get out of the house. Statistics show that may people are overcome by smoke while trying to escape from their house.

2. Gather your family together in one room upstairs.

3. Call the Fire Brigade on 999 / 112 from the phone upstairs.

4. Close the door and place a towel at the bottom of the door to prevent smoke leaking into the room.

5. Open the bedroom window to allow air into the room and stay by the bedroom window until the fire brigade arrives.

2. Chimney Fires

The number of chimney fires in County Kildare is still very high. These fires can cause serious damage to your home. However, chimney fires are avoidable and the following chimney fire prevention tips should be considered:

• If you burn coal or wood fires, have your chimney cleaned twice a year.

• If you have a gas or oil burning fire, and the chimney is designed for sweeping, it should be cleaned once a year.

• Don’t use flammable liquids like petrol or paraffin to light your fire.

• Don’t burn paper or rubbish.

• Don’t overload the fire with fuel.

• Always use a spark guard.

• Check your attic occasionally when the fire is lighting to ensure there are no cracks in the chimney or mortar joints.

3. The 10 Key Fire Prevention Points:

• Always have working smoke alarms fitted in your home.

• Keep matches and lighters out of children’s reach.

• Take extreme care when cooking chips / fried food. Never leave a chip pan unattended for whatever reason.

• Check electric blankets regularly for wear / damage and make sure they are used according to manufacturers’ instructions.

• Use an effective spark guard on open fires especially before going to bed and when children are about.

• Do not leave newspapers, clothes or material too close to a fire or heaters (fixed / portable.

• Switch off and un-plug all non-essential appliances when not in use.

• If you allow smoking in the house, provide large, stable ashtrays – a burning cigarette end can smoulder for hours before igniting and spreading.

• Do not smoke in bed.

• Check all leads and plugs for fraying or burning and replace if necessary. Do not overload sockets.

• Take special precautions at holiday periods, Halloween and Christmas.

4. Education

The Community Fire Safety Programme is ongoing within Kildare. This involves a structured fire safety presentation to every third class in every primary school in the county. This presentation is given by experienced fire fighters. There has been a very positive feedback to this initiative. It is intended that this presentation will continue every year. The aim is to train all the children in basic fire safety and thus reduce the number of fires.

5. Publications

There are a number of publications available on Fire Safety. These are published by the Department of the Environment and are available in all public libraries, throughout Kildare. In addition to this they can be downloaded from the Department of the Environment at www.environ.ie and from Kildare Fire Service at www.kildare.ie/countycouncil/fireservices

The publications include:

Fire Safety in the home

Smoke/Heat Alarms

Fire Safety in Flats & Apartments

Fire Safety for the Elderly

Fire Safety in Caravans

These publications are available in both English and Irish. All contain simple easy to follow information that could save your life or that of a loved one.

Remember, the Essential Rules of Fire Safety

Install smoke alarms to give you an early warning in the event of a fire.

Assess your home and eliminate fire hazards.

Make a Fire Escape Plan for your family and perfect it.

There is no going back to save a life – Remember “Get out and Stay Out”

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