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Fire Safety in the home at Christmas

Christmas is a wonderful and magical time of the year for social gatherings with family, friends and colleagues. Everyone young and old can come together to celebrate, exchange gifts, eat, drink and be merry!

However, among the merriment and rejoicing, it’s extremely important to stay on top of fire safety in the home at all times and be extra vigilant during the festivities. Christmas brings a unique set of fire risks that you may only encounter once a year.

So, to help you keep your family safe over the festive season, our Fire Safety Angels have put together their top 12 picks for fire risks at Christmas. And if you run a business, you can find safety tips for work here.

Here are their top 12 for fire safety in the home:

  1. Fire detection & testing
  2. Christmas trees & decorations
  3. Alcohol
  4. Candles
  5. Electrical
  6. Cigarettes
  7. Christmas lights
  8. Evacuating safely
  9. Advice for parents
  10. Fireworks
  11. Cooking
  12. Fire doors

Our Christmas gift to you. Download our guide to keeping your family safe during the festive season

The Fire Safety Angel has put all of the advice below in to one handy downloadable document to share with your family and friends.

  • A smoke alarm in good working order should wake you if a fire breaks out, so it’s important to check regularly they’re all in good condition and working correctly.
  • Try to get into the habit of testing the batteries in your smoke alarm every week.
  • Never remove batteries from your smoke alarm for something else – not even for Christmas toys!  Keep a spare supply of batteries at home and you’ll always be safe.
  • Don’t wait for spring cleaning. Celebrate Christmas with an annual alarm dust-off!
  • There are a few simple fire safety checks that you can do each night:
    • Turn off and unplug electrical appliances that don’t need to be left on
    • Tempting though it may be, don’t leave mobiles and tablets on charge
    • Check your cooker and all electrical heaters are switched off
    • Don’t leave dishwashers, tumble dryers or dishwashers on at night,
    • Rake out fires and extinguish candles and cigarettes
  • Finally, it pays to know that if you had to escape in a hurry, you can. Do a quick check that your escape route out of the house is clear and keep door & window keys where everyone can find them during an emergency escape.

Whether you choose real or artificial, enjoy your tree and stay safe this Christmas:

  • Take care with artificial trees/decorations; make sure you choose fire retardant products.
  • Did you know that a live tree, on fire, can rapidly fill a room with flames and deadly gases? This shocking video demonstrates how in under 5 seconds, your tree could be completely ablaze. So, if you’re keen on a real tree this Christmas, just bear in mind a few fire safety precautions that should be taken. A fresh tree is far safer than an older, drier one.
  • When choosing your tree, check that it’s green all over and the needles are hard to pull back from the branches.  Needles shouldn’t break if the tree has been freshly cut.
  • You can spot an old tree by bouncing the tree trunk on the ground. If many needles fall off, the tree has been cut too long and possibly dried out.  This is definitely a fire hazard.
  • When you bring your tree home, don’t put it right next to a radiator or open fire. The heat will dry out the tree. Not only will it not last until the New Year, but it is more likely to be ignited by heat, flames or sparks.
  • And finally, keep the tree stand filled with water at all times to stop it drying out.

Christmas is a time of celebration for everyone. We hope you enjoy many special moments with family and friends this year. And inevitably, where there’s a party, there’s alcohol…

  • Did you know that many fires at Christmas time are alcohol related? When drinking alcohol to excess, it impairs our ability to make sensible decisions. This means the risk of accidents goes up after we’ve had a drink (or two!).
  • Don’t drink & drive; it’s just not worth the risk.
  • To make life easier, arrange a lift home with a friend or get a taxi when out celebrating at parties.
  • And don’t get caught out by still being over the limit the next morning. Parties can go on into the small hours but your body needs time to process the alcohol you’ve drunk.

Candles are perfect for creating a welcoming, homely atmosphere as the days grow darker. Just don’t forget that candles are a major factor in many house fires. Read our top tips to help keep you and your family safe this Christmas.

  • Candle holders are decorative and a safe way to burn a candle. Just check they’re not close to anything flammable such as Christmas trees or soft furnishings.
  • Never leave candles unattended. If you’re not in the same room for any length of time, blow them out. And make sure they’re not near children or animals.
  • It’s a good idea to check every candle has been put out before you go to bed.
  • Or, why not remove the risk altogether and get flame-effect battery operated candles? They look as good as the real thing and are worry-free. Result!

It’s a scary statistic that electrical faults in appliances are the second largest cause of fire within domestic properties in the UK. With that in mind, we’ve put together some electrical guidance when using festive lights and decorations:

  • Check that the lights you’re using all conform to British or European standards. You can check this by looking for a BS or CE number on the transformer (between the lights and the plug). You may see BS EN6059.
  • Reducing the voltage that runs through your appliance is a good idea. This is done with a transformer which reduces voltage to 24v or less.
  • Make sure your appliances and lights are examined each year before use to ensure they are in good condition, with no exposed wiring and the correct rated fuse.
  • Are your appliances earthed? The only exception to this is ‘double insulation’ and you can spot that by looking for a symbol of a square inside a square.
  • Finally, we urge everyone to be extra vigilant of portable heaters which might have been placed close to furnishings or other flammable materials.

Smoking can harm not only your health but also your property. Discarded, forgotten and unattended cigarettes, pipes and roll-ups cause many house fires every year.

  • If you do smoke, make sure you put them out properly. Disposing of cigarettes responsibly dramatically reduces the risk of fire in your home.
  • Never smoke in bed as there’s always the chance you’ll fall asleep while a cigarette is still lit. And be careful when smoking after drinking alcohol, when tired or taking prescription drugs. These are all situations in which your judgment is impaired.
  • You can buy ashtrays which are impossible to tip over and made of non-flammable material.
  • Not only is it important to make sure cigarettes and roll-ups are fully extinguished, it’s also good to ensure that they are cold – and preferably wet – before you empty them into a waste bin. Take care to never dispose of smoking materials in or near flammable materials.
  • Keep matches and lighters out of children’s reach and always buy child resistant lighters.

What can be more instantly heart-warming than the glow of fairy lights on a Christmas tree? They’re beautiful to look at, but they can also be a fire hazard if they’re faulty or near something flammable. Read our top fire safety tips and then you’re free to relax and enjoy Christmas.

  • Check all bulbs and fuses on your fairy lights; it’s also wise to check that old lights have been portable appliance tested.
  • Take care not to put fairy lights (which heat up) near anything flammable such as paper or tinsel. Newer LED lights tend not to heat up and are safer in this respect.
  • Don’t be tempted to use indoor lights outside, as they will not be resistant to moisture. Outdoor lights are readily available in supermarkets and independent shops.
  • Overloading sockets is a common mistake that many make. It can cause overheating and is a major fire hazard.
  • Any lights you buy in a shop should conform to current British Standards (you’ll know by the number prefixed with BS on the plug or transformer). Check before you buy.
  • On that note, always check there is a transformer between the plug and the lights as this lowers the voltage (and the chance of shocks)
  • And finally, we recommend you always use an RCD. This is short for residual current device – it’s a safety device that can save lives by instantly switching off the power if there is a fault.

It’s not nice to think about fire in your home, but being prepared is the number one thing that will protect you and your family.

  • Take some time to come up with an evacuation plan and then practice the plan when you test the smoke alarms.
  • Get your children involved and they’re more likely to remember what to do in an emergency. How about drawing up a Fire Action Notice and pinning it up on the fridge?
  • Find a place which is easily accessible for door/window keys so you can escape safely if a fire starts.
  • If you see smoke or fire, get as far away from it as you can (safely), raise the alarm and get out of the house as soon as possible.  If you can, go to your neighbours and ask them to call 999.
  • Teach any young children in the house to shout for an adult if they see smoke or fire.
  • If there is smoke in the room, get as low down as possible (smoke rises). Crawl along the floor to find an escape, but never be tempted to hide under a bed or in a cupboard.
  • If your exit route is blocked, don’t panic! Find a room with a window, shut the door and put blankets or towels at the bottom of the door to stop smoke getting in and then dial 999, otherwise open a window and shout for help.
  • Once you are out of the building, never, ever go back in, not even for pets. This can hinder the firefighters’ efforts.

Fire safety education is important for young children all year round, but Christmas can increase the dangers in your home. Find out how to keep your children safe:

  • If you’re aware there’s a fire risk, don’t leave children unsupervised.
  • Never let them play near the oven and hob.
  • Anything flammable such as matches, lighters, candles and tea lights should always be kept out of their reach.
  • It’s a good idea to install a child proof fire guard in front of an open fire or heater. Also, encourage your children not to leave their toys near a fire or heater.
  • Check regularly that your fire escape route is clear of toys and other obstructions.
  • Perhaps you could take the time to check on other vulnerable groups such as elderly family or neighbours?  It only takes a few minutes to pop round and do a quick check of their home.  Could you identify and remove any fire risks to help keep them safe?

Parties at Christmas don’t have to stay indoors. You might want to take your celebration outdoors and enjoy a few festive fireworks! While they’re great fun, it’s also important that you follow the firework code. We’ve done the hard work for you:

  • Read the instructions on each separate packet as different fireworks may need handling in different ways.
  • A metal lidded box is a safe way to store fireworks leaving you hassle-free to enjoy the bangs!
  • Light the firework at arms’ length with a taper and stand well back (and wear gloves).
  • Never go back to a lit firework; it’s tempting but it can also be dangerous.
  • Keep naked flames, including cigarettes, away from fireworks.
  • A bucket of water nearby comes in very handy for dunking spent fireworks.
  • At the end of the party, make sure all fires are completely extinguished.
  • It’s obvious that kitchens are high-risk areas for fires so please be extra vigilant when cooking. It’s easy to become distracted at Christmas and that’s when accidents are most likely to happen.
  • Grease lurking in gaps is a fire’s best friend. Clean your oven, hob and grill regularly.
  • A sherry is one thing, but cooking after excessive drinking is not a good idea! Remember, your judgment will be impaired and accidents are more likely to happen.
  • Even if it’s tempting to watch the presents being opened, never leave Christmas dinner cooking unattended. We always recommend that you switch off the oven, hob and any electrical appliances when you’ve finished cooking and if you’re going out.
  • Not many people think to do this at home, but making sure all inside doors are closed before you go to bed can stop and smoke from spreading, giving you valuable time to evacuate.
  • If any of the doors in your house have automatic door closers, make sure these doors are in good working order. Do they close and latch correctly?
  • Did you know that there must be a fire door between a house and an integral garage?
  • And, if you have a loft conversion, the door to the loft room must also be a fire door.
  • If you suspect a fire on the other side of a door, please DO NOT open it. Feeding fire with fresh air is dangerous and it could explode into the house and onto you!

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