Fire Safety in the Home – Key messages
- Fit smoke alarms on every level of your home and test them regularly – on the first of the month!
- If you smoke, ensure you stub your cigarettes out properly – Put it out. Right out.
- Don’t leave cooking unattended and keep it out of reach of children.
- Don’t overload electrical sockets and turn off electrical appliances and plugs before you go to bed or go out – apart from appliances that are designed to stay on, like freezers.
- Keep lit candles, portable heaters and other sources of heat away from curtains and furniture and never use them for drying clothes.
- Plan and practise an escape route and make sure everyone knows it.
- In the event of a fire, don’t tackle the fire yourself. Get out, stay out and call 999.
Chimney Fire Safety Week
With summer drawing to a close, Chimney Fire Safety Week (9 –15 September) provides a timely reminder to make sure that your chimney is ready for the winter months ahead. As part of the national Fire Kills campaign, West Midlands Fire Service is urging householders to ensure their chimney is safe and to have their chimney swept by a registered chimney sweep.
Open fires not only warm up a home, but also create a unique relaxing ambience. With the numbers of people using open fires growing, the Fire Kills campaign has provided some top tips for safer chimneys.
- Always use a fire guard to protect against flying sparks from hot embers
- Make sure embers are properly put out before you go to bed
- Keep chimneys and flues clean and well maintained
The aim of Chimney Fire Safety Week is to raise awareness of safe chimney use, including the importance of ensuring that chimneys are swept regularly, are clean and appropriate quality fuel is used.
According to the National Association of Chimney Sweeps (NACS) ‘Heat Your Home Safely’ leaflet, the primary aim of the chimney sweep is to aid in the prevention of chimney fires and reduce the risk of dangerous fume emissions from blocked heating appliances, flueways and chimneys.
What causes chimney fires?
Chimney fires usually occur because the deposits of combustion are left within the flueways. By definition, a chimney fire is the burning of soot or creosote within the appliance, outlet or flue system, which can result in improper function of the appliance, damage to the flue, house or surrounding structures and it can even start a house fire.
Chimney fires are usually started when high temperatures or flames from a very hot fire extend into the appliance outlet or flue and the ignition of the combustible deposits within, occur.
- Ensure your chimney is swept regularly
- Chimneys should be swept according to the type of fuel used:
- Smokeless fuels – at least once a year
- Bitumous coal – at least twice a year
- Wood – quarterly when in use
- Oil – once a year
- Gas – once a year (Any work on gas appliances requires a Gas Safe registered installer/engineer)
- Keep chimneys and flues clean and well maintained
- Be careful when using open fires to keep warm. Make sure you always use a fire guard to protect against flying sparks from hot embers
- Ensure the fire is extinguished before going to bed or leaving the house
- Ensure good quality fuel is used
- Never interrupt the air supply by blocking air vents or air bricks
Responsibilities for the maintenance of chimneys
Renters and owners
Any person that uses flue appliances has a responsibility to maintain the appliance and flue. It is often stated that people should take reasonable care within the terms of household insurance policies and in the instance of thatched properties, the frequency of sweeping required is often specified by the insurers.
Landlords have a duty of care to their tenants and are required:
To repair and keep in working order, any room heater and water heating equipment.
After a chimney fire
After a chimney fire has occurred it must be inspected thoroughly as soon as possible by a Certified Sweep before the chimney is used again. This is to ascertain if the rapid and dramatic changes of temperature, which would have occurred within the chimney, have caused any damage and also to determine the need for any remedial measures. It is imperative that the chimney is not used prior to inspection.
Chimney sweeping is important. The function of sweeping the flue/chimney is to remove the deposits that build up when the burning of carbon based fuels occur. By sweeping the flue/chimney it ensures that there is a clear and safe passage for the safe exit of combustion products, which are caused by the burning process. This lessens the chances of the chimney catching fire.
It is important to remember that all fuels contain carbon – including oil, gas, wood, charcoal, coal and smokeless fuel – and care should be taken with all flues at all times to ensure its safe use. If you do not get complete combustion then carbon monoxide will be produced.
Sweeping will also ensure the safe removal of obstructions that may have lodged inside the flue:
- Flue collapse (loose brickwork), which could prevent the safe exit of products of combustion
The other function of a chimney sweep is to help and advise people in the safe use of the appliance or intended appliance they may be called out to sweep.
Sweeping frequency recommendations
|Smokeless coals||At least once a year|
|Wood||Up to four times a year|
|Bituminous coal||Twice a year|
|Oil||Once a year|
|Gas||Once a year|
Find your local chimney sweep
The ICS website has a ‘find a sweep’ facility proving contact details for ICS members – http://www.instituteofchimneysweeps.com/find.php.
You can search for a NACS chimney sweep by visiting the NACS website www.nacs.org.uk and by clicking on sweep search.
Alternatively, you can search for a chimney sweep at www.hetas.co.uk.
Gas Safety Week
Gas Safety Week is a national safety campaign to raise awareness of gas safety in the UK’s 23 million gas fuelled homes. This includes ensuring that people appropriately maintain and service their gas appliances, and that carbon monoxide alarms are installed.
The campaign is coordinated by Gas Safe Register with support from the gas industry including retailers, manufacturers, consumer bodies and the public.
Gas Safe Register
Gas Safe Register is the official gas registration body for the United Kingdom, Isle of Man and Guernsey, appointed by the relevant Health and Safety Authority for each area. By law, all gas engineers must be on the Gas Safe Register. They additionally have responsibility to improve gas safety.
This year, they are running their annual Gas Safety Week to raise awareness of gas safety across the UK. They are working with support from the gas industry including retailers, manufacturers, consumer bodies and the public.
Russell Krämer, chief executive for Gas Safe Register, said: “Every year, far too many people suffer from preventable gas related accidents, such as gas leaks, explosions, fires and carbon monoxide poisoning. It’s great therefore, that [local] Fire and Rescue Service, as part of the Fire Kills campaign, has pledged its support and is raising awareness of gas safety issues, helping to let the 23 million gas consumers in the UK know about the simple checks they can make to stay safe.”
Follow these simple checks to stay gas safe:
- Always use a Gas Safe registered engineer when having gas work carried out in your home. You can find a registered engineer in your area by calling Gas Safe Register on 0800 408 5500 or visit GasSafeRegister.co.uk
- Get your gas appliances safety checked at least once a year and serviced in line with the manufacturer’s instructions. This includes your gas boiler, gas cooker and gas fire. Sign up at staygassafe.co.uk for a free reminder service.
- Check the front and back of your engineer’s Gas Safe Register ID card, making sure they are qualified to do the specific type of gas work you require.
- Install an audible carbon monoxide alarm which will alert you if dangerous levels are present in your home.
- Check for warning signs your appliances aren’t working correctly, such as lazy yellow or orange flames instead of crisp blue ones, black marks on or around the appliance and too much condensation in the room.
For more information or to find Gas Safe registered engineer visit www.GasSafeRegister.co.uk or call 0800 408 5500.
Information about the Week can be found on their website – www.gassafetyweek.co.uk.
West Midlands Fire Service offer FREE Home Safety Checks. You can receive a visit by your local Fire fighters and get advice and guidance on cooking, electrical safety, night time routines, planning escape routes in case of fire and much more. You may even qualify for a FREE smoke alarm to be fitted.
If you or someone you know would like a free Home Safety Check, please ring FREEPHONE 0800 389 5525 to arrange a suitable appointment and quote: “Partnership reference 811”.
For any other general enquiries regarding Fire Service activities and Fire Safety advice, please contact: Watch Commander Lee Sketchley or Crew Commander Neil Rooker at Smethwick Fire Station 0121 380 7533.