Dealing With A Fire In Your Home

It you suspect a tire in your home, don’t delay, take action immediately. Always investigate at once any strange smell or noise that could be the start of a fire. Teach your children to come and find you at once if they smell anything odd.

You should only try to tackle a fire yourself if it is a small fire in its early stages. The appropriate action varies according to what is burning; sec different headings below. But in all cases the first thing you should do is to shut the door of the room where the fire is, and the windows as well, if you can reach them safely.

Major fires

If a fire breaks out which is beyond your control, here is what to do:

– Get everybody out of the room at once and tell them to leave the house immediately. Do not use lifts.

– Leave the room yourself and shut the door.

– On the way out, alert other people so far as is possible, and shut other doors and windows if you can do so without risk.

– Go yourself and telephone the fire brigade. Don’t assume someone else has done this already. Simply dial 999: you do not need money for an emergency call from a public call box. State the location of the fire as clearly as you can, giving the full address. Otherwise the fire brigade may loose precious minutes trying to find you.

If you suspect that there is a fire behind a closed door, never open it, because the fire will simply sweep out and engulf you. Get everybody out of the house and call the fire brigade just as quickly as you can.

Always remember that life is infinitely more important than property, and never take risks to rescue your valuables.

Every house can benefit from a basic survival kit, which will get the family through an extended power cut, a major flood, or being cut off by mow. Of course, this is not so important if you live in a town as when you live in the country. Your kit could usefully include matches, candles, and camping lights; small camping cooker plus fuel; a supply of tinned food and dried goods; plus bottles of mineral water. And a good basic tool kit would prove invaluable for the ‘getting back to normal’ repairs.

If you are trapped in a room by fire, don’t panic, but try to follow this basic drill.

Close the door of the room as quickly as possible, and close any other openings, 170 such as fanlights, skylights, ventilators, etc. Seal up the gap along the bottom of the door with rolled up clothes or bedding.

Go to the window and try to attract the attention of someone outside. Make a lot of noise, or wave something very brightly coloured.

Don’t try to get out unless you are forced to; many people are injured unnecessarily by panicking in this way. If the room starts to fill up with smoke, try not to become alarmed. Tie a handkerchief or scarf around your mouth, and lean out of the window to breathe. But if this is not possible, crouch down near the floor, because the heat and smoke will be less there.

Climb out of the window only if you absolutely have to. If you have to break a window, use your shoes to kick it out, or use a chair leg or something else that is heavy: do not try to break the glass with your hands. Try to clear jagged glass from the lower edge, and it you can, place a blanket over the sill before escaping. It possible, make a rope for yourself by tying together sheets or curtains and knotting them to a bed or a heavy piece of furniture. Make certain that all the knots are tied securely and that the rope will bear your weight.

If you cannot make a rope, throw down cushions or bedding to break your fall. Get through the window feet first, lower yourselfto the full extent of your arms and drop: this reduces the distance you have to drop, and helps to keep your limbs relaxed.

Chip-pan fires

These are among the most common causes of fire in the home.

Do not use water, earth or sand on a chip pan fire, or you will spread particles of burning fat all over the kitchen.

Do not try to move the pan: you could spread the fire and badly burn yourself.

If it is possible to do so safely, turn out the heat under the pan.

Smother the pan with a lid, plate, tin tray, large board or damp cloth. Keep the fire covered until the fat has cooled, or the fat will simply re-ignite. A fire blanket could be very useful in an emergency of this kind: keep it close to the cooker but not where it will be obscured by any flames.

Whatever you use to smother the flames, hold it at an angle of 45°. If you hold the lid, tray, damp towel or blanket flat the flames can lick out from underneath and could badly burn your arms.

If you find you cannot control the fire, do not attempt any further action, but follow the basic fire precautions described opposite.

Upholstery fires

These have received a lot of alarming publicity recently. Modern foam upholstery cannot set fire to itself: follow basic fire precautions. But once upholstery is burning, you should remember that very large amounts of poisonous fumes can be given off in as little as two minutes. It is therefore absolutely vital to clear the room of people at once and to close the door. There is not time to collect together possessions: just get everyone out, and call the fire brigade as soon as you can.

Electrical fires

If possible, switch off at the socket and pull out the plug. Provided you have been able to do this, you can then use a bucket or jug of water, or water from a hosepipe, to put out the fire. But if you cannot disconnect the appliance from the electrical supply, it will remain live, and you must not use water, or you could get a shock.

If the fire is still small, smother the appliance with a heavy towel or blanket, but if the fire seems out of control, leave it, get everyone out of the room and house, shut the door and call the fire brigade. Throwing a blanket on a large fire will only fuel the flames. You can use a dry powder or carbon dioxide fire extinguisher, provided you are absolutely sure of how it works. If you have one of these, make sure you know how to use it before a fire occurs.

Chimney fires

Keep your chimney regularly swept to avoid fire.

If the chimney does catch fire, call the fire brigade at once. If possible, place a finely meshed guard around the fire. Move furniture and carpets away from the fireplace. Close down ventilation to the fireplace and keep the windows of the room closed.

Keep an eye on the other rooms through which the chimney passes. If the walls are getting hot, it is sensible to move furniture away from them.

Don’t try to put out the fire yourself: you could hurt yourself, and make things worse. Wait for the fire brigade, who know exactly what to do.

Clothing fires

If your clothing catches fire, the most important thing to do is to lie down immediately and roll over and over to put out the flames. If you can, 171 whilst rolling, wrap yourself in any large piece of fabric that comes to hand, such as a rug, dressing gown, curtain or so on. But do not delay lying down to look for this, and do not smother smouldering clothes for longer than necessary because the hot fabric will be held against the skin and cause extra damage.

If another person catches fire, push them onto the floor and smother the flames with whatever fabric is available, as above. Take-care to protect the casualty’s face from the flames.

Dealing With A Fire In Your Home

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