As summer approaches and Britain gets into gear for celebrations, East Sussex Fire & Rescue Service is joining other fire and rescue services across the nation in asking people to make sure their family, guests and loved ones know how to get out, stay out, and call 999 in the event of a fire.
A smoke alarm can give people the warning they need to get out of their home in a fire, but a blocked exit, locked door or unfamiliar surroundings can often shave vital seconds from their escape time, exposing them to the fatal dangers of toxic smoke.
Fire Investigator Mark Hobbs said: “One such incident happened in East Sussex, as illustrated on our Black Museum web pages. A fire was caused after an electric bar-type heater was accidentally switched on. This sparked a serious fire in the early hours of the morning, when the property’s residents were asleep.
“Fortunately, a working smoke alarm was positioned in the room where the fire started, which sounded and woke the occupants, who were able to escape unhurt.
“Also, the door of the bedroom where the fire started was shut and due to its substantial construction and the fitting of intumescing strips and cold smoke seals, it prevented any fire spread to the remainder of the property.
“The occupant of the bedroom where the fire started had smelt burning a number of hours before the fire started - but unfortunately did not call the Fire & Rescue Service to investigate at that time.
“The fire victim told us that what was so shocking about the fire was the speed in which it took hold and how damaging the effects were. It went from a smoke filled room, to a fire so hot that it melted the television and blew out the windows in a matter of minutes.
“They were thankful that they had adequate smoke detectors and fire alarms to raise the alarm to other residents, also that the fire door contained the fire in that one room keeping the rest of the house and its occupants safe until the Fire Service were able to deal with the blaze.”
Any door (if shut!) can help to hold back a fire and you should as part of a bedtime routine make sure that doors are shut at night and also if you leave the property.
Some simple steps and a clear escape plan in the event of a fire will help ensure that everyone can get out, stay out and call 999:
- Fit a smoke alarm and test it regularly. A working smoke alarm can buy you valuable time in a fire
- Prepare and practise a plan of action to help you act quickly if there’s a fire in your home.
- Keep your escape route clear to ensure a speedy exit
- Make sure everyone knows where the door and window keys are kept.
East Sussex Fire & Rescue Service would also like to remind people of the vital importance of helping those who are less able to help themselves.
More than 400 children under 18 were injured and four killed in fires in the home last year, and around seventy per cent of older people overestimate their ability to escape a fire in the home.
If you have a dependant to think about:
- Make sure you’ve planned an escape route and think of any difficulties people may have getting out and help they may need, such as a torch to light their way or a stair rail.
- Consider the best place to go if the worst happens and someone can’t escape, especially if they have trouble moving around or can’t get downstairs on their own.
- Nominate someone in your home (perhaps a child) to be the ‘Escape champ’ - Regularly role-play escape routes and give children the responsibility to keep escape routes clear.
- Community Safety Team Manager Steve Wright said:
“We all love a good get-together when the weather picks up, but if you’re having guests round this summer, there’s no need to leave them in the dark when it comes to safety. Just two to three breaths of toxic smoke could leave you unconscious, so every second counts when escaping a fire and a working smoke alarm and knowing the escape plan in an emergency could make all the difference.
“If you have dependants or someone less able to care for, it could take more time to get out, stay out and call 999. Make sure you’re always prepared, your exits are clear and everyone knows what to do if the worst should happen.”