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Fire: Protect Yourself and Your Home

Recent Home Office data on trends in fires and fire-related fatalities tells us that older people, especially those aged 65 and over, have a higher fire-related fatality rate than the rest of the population.

Carbon monoxide alarm, fire alarm, and fire extinguisher.
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Andrew Vaughan-Davies is a former fire investigation officer who worked with London Fire Brigade for 30 years.  He supports the product safety and consumer law team who work with clients who have been affected by serious household appliance fires.
Common causes of fires include cooking appliances, smokers’ materials (such as cigarettes and matches), misuse of equipment or appliances, and faulty appliances or leads.
Fire can start quickly and spread rapidly. So what you can do to protect yourself and your home?

Smoke Alarms
Fitting a working smoke alarm is one of the most significant things that you can do to protect yourself.  Smoke alarms in your home can give you early warning of a developing fire and provide you with more time to get out and reach a safe place. Fitting an alarm on each floor of your home is the ideal. Make sure that your alarms have the BSI Kitemark and test them regularly.

Plan Your Escape
If you think about all the ways that you could get out of your home if a fire breaks out, then you will stand a much better chance of reaching a safe place and coming to no harm. Plan your fire escape routes and keep those routes free from clutter. Many fire and rescue services will do a free home safety visit, known as a Home Fire Risk Check, to help reduce the risk of fire to you. They can help you to plan your escape routes and can even help you to install smoke alarms. Check with your local fire and rescue service and arrange a visit from them.

Prevention
Think about what the risks of fire in your home are.  If you have an open fire, make sure that the chimney is swept regularly and that you use a fireguard. Never leave cooking unattended so that food or oil isn’t left to ignite. Take care with extinguishing cigarettes and never leave candles unattended.  Smoking in bed is very dangerous.

What About Appliances and Equipment?
Any appliance or product that we use in our home can develop a fault.  In some cases, those faults can lead to a fire. We know that fires caused by white goods such as fridge freezers can be particularly dangerous and destructive.  You can make sure that you are notified of any safety repairs or recalls if you register your appliance. You can register new products with the manufacturer. New products and products up to 12 years old can also be registered via the Register My Appliance website: www.registermyappliance.org.uk/ . If you don’t think you’ve ever registered your white goods, such as your tumble dryer or fridge freezer, it really is important to do so. You can also check websites to see if there are any safety notices or recalls about the product.  If internet access isn’t always easy for you, ask family members or your neighbours to help.

There still isn’t a one stop shop for product recalls, but some of these sites are examples of those that you can check:

www.registermyappliance.org.uk/products/recall-list/
www.electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk/product-recalls/
productrecall.campaign.gov.uk/#2YiwBkwPC332Hsj6.97

The Consumer Law and Product Safety team at law firm, Leigh Day, has seen first-hand the devastation that fire can cause. There are many organisations campaigning for safer products in the home and Leigh Day’s campaign “Expect it’s Safe, Expect it’s Fair” calls for companies to do more to make consumers aware of faults with their defective products and to deliver consumer protection.

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