Behind closed doors

For 16 years Fire and Rescue Services (FRSs) have reduced the number of fires, injuries and deaths with prevention visits to home owners. They now deliver about 670,000 free home checks across the UK annually.

It’s not always obvious to people when they are putting themselves at risk. What some people consider acceptable may send shivers down a firefighters’ spine.

On a recent home safety check South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service came across an oven which was being used to store ‘bags for life’ and biscuits. The image was posted on Twitter by firefighters and attracted a huge amount of attention. Even if the home owner was not a fan of cooking,  the oven could have been inadvertently turned on. The risk of fire would have been very high.

SYFRS Oven with bags
Image courtesy of South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service who came across this oven filled with bags and biscuits.

How not to heat your home

Sometimes age or culture may mean people are just not aware of the risks.

Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service  visited the home of a Polish man who was using a home made radiator despite having a gas central heating system installed in his home.  The illegal and dangerous device was made from metal can filled with water. Two cables powered from a telephone socket were wrapped around a home made heating element. This would heat the water in the can and in turn heat the room.

image002
Image courtesy of Merseyside FRS

The voltage which was passing through from the phone socket was 20-50 milliamps, this kind of shock can cause breathing difficulties, paralysis of the chest muscles and can be fatal.

Gary Oakford Prevention Group Manager said; “The Incident Investigation Team had never come across a device like this before and obviously the risk of electrocution was a significant. The gentleman informed us that this type of device was common practice in Eastern European countries.”

In Chelmsford, a man had a very lucky escape when a Home Safety Check identified very high levels of carbon monoxide in his home. The CO monitors gave a reading of 100 parts per million (ppm) – the safe level is 30 ppm.

The elderly gentleman had been using his grill to keep warm not realising that this was leading to a build up of carbon monoxide.  More details of this visit can be found on the Essex FRS website

It is estimated that one person dies every seven minutes in winter due to the cold, some useful advice on how to keep warm and well can be found on this link from the NHS.

Safe and Well

What was clear from the home checks was there were common risk factors between people. Those that benefit most from advice from fire and rescue services often needed to access health services. For example, people with an addiction or dependency, loneliness or cold homes were at increased risk of fire and an increased likelihood to need to access NHS services.

FRSs  in some case can even deliver some basic health checks – for example sight or hearing checks and offer advice on a range of subjects from cooking safely to heating the home safely and avoiding trips and falls. This is additional advice is particularly useful for elderly and vulnerable people.

Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue have some useful information a  Safe and Well flyer with some case studies of how people have benefitted from their help.

CFOA would like people to take the time to spread the word about these visits and consider arranging one for older or vulnerable friends or relatives – with their permission of course.

A visit from your local fire and rescue service might just make sure that what goes on behind closed doors is not a disaster waiting to happen.

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