It is officially spring, traditionally we would give our homes a spring clean and wash the windows of a winter of accumulated soot and dust from the winter fires. Most of us don’t need to do this so it’s great time to give your home safety a spring clean instead.
You cannot underestimate the importance of a working smoke alarm. They won’t prevent a fire but they can buy you valuable time to get out of the house.
You should check the batteries are working by testing your alarms each week. As a reminder many fire services will ask you to #TestItTuesday. So, follow your local service on twitter or facebook for your weekly reminder and plenty of other useful advice.
Give your smoke alarms a spring clean to remove any dust or debris, this will keep the sensor clear. Try and keep a spare smoke alarm battery in the house in case it needs replacing and don’t remove batteries from smoke alarms. In 2014-15 in 25% of fire incidents where a smoke alarm failed to respond it was because the battery was missing or flat. Some of these incidents resulted in death or serious injury.
Double check your alarms are correctly placed. They should be fixed to the ceiling – ideally in the centre of the room. Smoke will initially rise up to the ceiling before crawling down the walls and into corners of the room. So by fixing your alarm near the centre of the ceiling you are making sure there is no delay in the smoke activating the alarm. Don’t use glue or stickers to hold them in place (yes people have done that), they should be screwed in place.
Make sure you have the right alarm in the right place. People often get annoyed with their alarms activating when they are cooking or taking a shower and end up removing batteries. If this is the case your alarm may be too close to the kitchen or bathroom – move it.
The best type of alarm for a kitchen is a heat alarm. They are not sensitive to smoke and activate when there is a rapid increase in temperature or very high temperature. This also makes them useful for garages or workshops.
Households should make sure they have plenty of smoke alarms. The absolute minimum should be one on each level of the home. Ideally you would have one is each room. This is especially important as homes now have many electrical items in many rooms. It’s not unusual to have several televisions a couple of computers and several phones charging in most households. If your children have gadgets in their room install a smoke alarm. It costs less than a charger lead.
If you rent a property your landlord must install smoke alarms but it’s up to you to make sure they are regularly tested.
Plan your escape
If an alarm does go off, knowing what to do makes a huge difference. We would be up in arms if schools didn’t train our children on how to respond and evacuate a school safely, yet how many people have thought about what they would do in their own homes.
Take a look around your home. Make sure you can easily move around. Don’t keep items on the stairs, they can cause an accident at the best of times. Make sure any exits are clear. Even if it’s an exit your household tends not to use on a daily basis in an emergency it might be the only escape route.
Clear any rubbish from garages and sheds as these can help fuel fires.
Try and ensure keys to windows and doors can be reached easily so you can unlock doors or windows to aid escape. Have a practice of your plan with the whole family.
Recent and ongoing research from Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service indicates that not all children may wake to the sound of a smoke alarm. If you have children or vulnerable people in your home you must take account of this. This means you must plan to physically alert them and assist them to escape.
If you need advice or help then take a look at your local fire and rescue services website. They may be able to provide and install smoke alarms or in some cases arrange a home safety check for you.