‘Near miss’ fire incidents prompt appeal to look after the vulnerable this Christmas

A person standing in a kitchen with toaster

A string of ‘near miss’ incidents at the homes of vulnerable people has led to a plea from the Fire Service for everyone to consider the fire safety of others.

Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service (NFRS) is appealing for relatives and carers to please look for warning signs of fire risk in the homes of anyone who lives independently, but who may still need help to think about their own safety.

Staying safe from fire can be more of a challenge for some people who are elderly or for those who have a physical disability or are experiencing difficulties with their mental health. This can include people who experience early symptoms of dementia or who are reliant on medication which affects alertness.

Keeping safe from fire can also be difficult for those whose ability to react is affected because they are dependent on drugs or alcohol.

If these people live alone, the risk from fire increases, so we are asking those who support them to take action to help keep them safe this Christmas and beyond.

Prevention Team Leader Tina Collett said: “The fire safety of vulnerable people really is an issue throughout the year, not just at Christmas. But we would like people to use the holidays to really stop and think about how safe their loved ones are from fire.

“We have seen a series of ‘near miss’ incidents recently which could have been so much worse. We would urge people not to leave it to chance and to have an eye out for warning signs that perhaps cooking is being forgotten, smoking is unsafe or indicators that, if a fire was to break out, someone wouldn’t be able to exit safely. It’s also quick and easy to check a smoke alarm for someone and this is so important because only working alarms save lives.”

If you spot any of these signs or are concerned at all about fire safety, please get in touch for advice, either by emailing enquiries@northantsfire.gov.uk or by ringing 01604 797000 and asking to speak to the Home Fire Safety Team.

Home Safety Visits can also be carried out when necessary. For information about requesting a Home Safety Visit, please see: www.northantsfire.gov.uk/safety/home-safety-checks.

The NFRS Home Fire Safety team would like anyone visiting a vulnerable person this Christmas to look out for signs of potential fire hazards. We know from our recent fire incidents that these can include:

In the kitchen
• Evidence of false alarms or accidents when cooking, possibly caused by food being forgotten or neglected on the hob or in the oven or a microwave not being used safely
• Items such as towels or bags may be left on a hot hob without the fire danger being realised

Smoking
• Burn marks from cigarettes on bedding or soft furnishings. This can be because someone has physical difficulties in holding their cigarette, matches or lighters safely or perhaps because someone is drowsy or forgetful when smoking
• If you know someone smokes in bed, they are at a much higher risk of starting an accidental fire

Electrical Safety
• Scorch marks around plug sockets or damaged wiring
• Is someone potentially using very old or faulty electrical goods or habitually overloading plug sockets?

Heating
• Heating appliances are old and have not been serviced
• The person you support isn’t able to turn heating appliances on and off safely
• The person you supports sits very close to an open fire or portable heater

Smoke alarms
• A missing or faulty smoke alarm. In the financial year 2019-2020, there were 123 fires in which a smoke alarm was either not present or did not activate in Northamptonshire. This amounts to more than a third of the domestic fires recorded in that year. Please make sure there are smoke alarms on every floor of someone’s home and they are tested once a month

Ability to escape
• Concerns that even if a smoke alarm sounded, that person would not be able to take action and call 999 for help
• Concerns that, in an emergency, that person could not escape without help
• Clutter around entrances and exits which would make it hard for someone to escape a fire.

 

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