Resolve to make 2016 safer

It’s the time of year we once again make the effort to kick those bad habits such as smoking and drinking. CFOA is keen to point out that these changes can not only improve our health but can also reduce the risk of an accidental house fire.

Evidence from fire and rescue services across the UK shows the consumption of alcohol significantly increases the risk of an accidental fire in the home.

In November 2015 Peter Dartford, Chief Fire Officer for Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service and a past President of CFOA, spoke at Alcohol Concern’s annual conference and  outlined the strong links between alcohol and fire and fire related deaths.

If drink or drugs are a factor in a house fire the risk of death is over three times higher. Details of the government’s statistics for the effect of alcohol on casualty rates in fires in the home for 2011-2012 can be found by following this link

London Fire Brigade said that one third fatal fires in their region are alcohol related. The cause is usually because the person has started cooking and fallen asleep. Additionally the consumption of alcohol means that you are less likely to respond to a smoke alarm. Being under the influence can easily make people disorientated and therefore less likely to be able to escape the fire safely and quickly.

If you are looking at New Year’s resolutions it is worth while taking a moment to think about your drinking habits. Is wine o’clock a little earlier than it used to be? Is it a little more often? Maybe you have got into the habit of having a drinking while cooking after work. Alcohol Concern’s #Dry January campaign has some useful guidance if you are thinking of cutting down.

How to reduce the risk of alcohol related fires:

  • Don’t cook if you have been drinking – treat yourself to a take-away
  • Avoid drinking too much so that you cannot take care of yourself or anyone else in the home
  • Don’t smoke in the house while you are drunk
  • Don’t use candles or any naked flames while you are drinking
  • Alcohol can impair your judgement – don’t attempt to tackle a fire yourself, call 999

If smoking is your habit then unfortunately you significantly increase your risks of an accidental house fire.

A smoker is 75% more likely to have a house fire than a non-smoker and smoking materials are the cause of 1 in 10 house fires. Smoking related fires are usually due to the careless disposal of cigarettes. If smoking is combined with alcohol then the risk of a fatal house fire increases significantly.

How to reduce the risk of smoking related fires:

  • Don’t light up if you are tired or have been drinking – it’s is very easy to fall asleep with a lit cigarette
  • Use a proper ashtray and make sure it can’t be knocked over
  • Make sure that you have put the cigarette out properly – maybe pop a little water in the ashtray just to make sure.
  • Be careful when you dispose of cigarette ash – hot ashes can start a fire
  • Don’t leave your cigarette unattended
  • Consider not smoking in the house and have your cigarette outdoors.

The number of fires caused by smoking related materials has decreased over the past few years but it is still the biggest cause of fatalities in accidental house fires.

Many people are turning to e-cigarettes to help them quit smoking. Fire and rescue services across the UK have seen an increase in incidents relating these products as they gain popularity. Recorded incidents have risen from 8 in 2012 to 62 in 2014 and tend to relate to the charging or incorrect charging of these devices.

ecig-fire - London Fire Brigade

House fire caused by an e-cigarette. Image courtesy of London Fire Brigade.

If you are using an e-cigarette to help you quit smoking take the same precautions as you would with other small electrical devices.

  • Use the correct charger –even if the charger fits the voltage may be too high for your device
  • Avoid cheap or unbranded chargers
  • Don’t leave e-cigarettes charging unattended for long periods
  • Make sure you buy from a reputable store
  • Make sure your e-cigarette has a CE mark

Just in case you don’t manage to stick to your resolutions you can still decrease your risk of fire or accidents in the home in 2016. Contact your local fire and rescue service and ask them to carry out a home fire safety visit. This means you will get specific advice for your household and advice on what to do if a fire does break out.


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