How to avoid an electrical fire in the home this Christmas

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! And the last thing anybody wants ruining their festive period is a house fire. A serious fire in the home is devastating at any time of year, but Christmas is magical for many and the memory of a traumatic event at this time can really leave its mark for all Christmas’s to come. Not only that, but often our house is filled with expensive gifts at this time, that once gone is really difficult to replace. So, it’s truly important that we are extra cautious with our fire safety precautions at this time of year, especially because Christmas usually brings with it additional fire hazards that aren’t present all year round.  Fairy lights and overloaded plug sockets are the worst offenders at Christmas, so we need to take extra care particularly in these areas. And we must make sure that all of the smoke alarms in our homes are in good working order.

In the UK, electrical fires account for 50% of all accidental house fires. The vast majority of these are caused by appliances either being faulty or misused. Thankfully, there are lots of precautions we can take in order to minimise the risk of an electrical fire this festive season. Let’s look at what we can do to give ourselves the best chance at a jolly holly Christmas . . .

Check Christmas lights for damage

We ought to check the cables of our white goods and other electrical appliances regularly for signs of wear and tear. After you have unplugged the product, just inspect the electrical cable and wiring to see if you can see any obvious signs of erosion, or a tear in the cabling.

Christmas lights are no different. But often a safety inspection is the last thing on our minds when we’re excited to get our decorations up. Depending on how many decorations you have, it can take some time, but it’s a really important step in ensuring our decs don’t lead us to disaster. Christmas lights need to be properly maintained. Ideally, you’d have all electrical equipment, including Christmas lights, PAT tested annually. But as an absolute minimum we need to be checking the cable for signs of frayed wiring. And we ought to also check all the bulbs for cracks and if any need to be replaced, we have to make sure they are replaced with the correct type of bulb. If you see any signs of wear and tear on your Christmas lights this year, replace them – it’s simply not worth the risk. Electrical cables can be disposed of at most UK recycling centres.

If you see any sign of damage on a larger appliance, don’t use it until it can be repaired by a registered appliance repair specialist.

Don’t overload plug sockets

An overloaded plug socket, with extension leads or multi plugs, is one of the most common causes of an electrical fire. We’re more likely to use them at Christmas, because it allows us to use several devices at a time and we’ve just got more to plug in! The wall socket can easily become overloaded, which can spark an electrical fire.

To avoid this, we should only use wall plugs and extension cords when it’s absolutely necessary. Plugging multiple extension cords into one another should be avoided at all costs as this greatly increases the risk of an electrical fire.

Try your best to have a ‘one device per socket’ rule. And if you’re unsure, an electrical safety first socket overload calculator can be used online to work out which electrical products are able to be safely plugged in together.

 

Don’t skimp on charging cables

One in five UK shoppers give electrical gifts at Christmas, so if you are lucky enough to find one waiting for you under the tree – make sure you always use the charging cable that is provided by the manufacturer. If this charging cable becomes lost or damaged, make sure you buy the recommended replacement from the manufacturer and not a cheap copy.

A cheap charging cable for your device that has not been produced by either the manufacturer or by a recommended supplier can seem like a bargain. But just a few extra pounds spent on a charging cable produced or approved by the manufacturer of any device that contains a rechargeable lithium battery is the smartest choice.

Imitation chargers often put more than the recommended charge into a device, which has the potential to affect the battery and also to cause a fire.

Switch off decorations at night

Most of us love fairy lights and other light up decorations at Christmas, for making the atmosphere really festive and magical. But when we’re in our beds asleep, they’re not necessary and, like all electrical appliances, they should be switched off at night. It’s sometimes easy to fall asleep with them on, but it’s so important that we do everything we can not forget to switch them off.

And it’s not just Christmas lights. Leaving your laptop charging or running the washing machine at night also has fire creating potential. We ought to unplug all electrical appliances before we sleep, because if there’s a problem in the night we’ll be less able to respond promptly in our sleep.

We hope that our top tips for avoiding an electrical fire this Christmas help you to keep safe this year. We wish you a wonderful festive season. Please do reach out if you have any concerns about your fire and safety needs.

From all of us at Swift Fire and Safety.

How to Observe Fire Safety Whilst Being Socially Distant

With so many businesses having returned to work since the lockdown restrictions eased, safety is at the forefront of all employers’ minds.  Because social distancing measures need to be adhered to, other health and safety measures need to be adapted in order to ensure that every person stays safe in the event of an emergency. Fire safety protocols must still be observed, and with some careful planning, need not be compromised.

Here are some guidelines on how to conduct and adapt Fire Safety procedures with social distancing in mind.

Now we’re back to work…

Business Managers and Owners will have assessed the safe return of employees and may just be operating with a skeleton staff or staggered work pattern.  Many have had to reduce the number of staff on the premises at any one time so that social distancing can be enforced.

Just because employee numbers may be down, the fire risks are still the same.  Therefore, if you are an employer, owner, landlord, occupier, or anyone else with control of the premises, this makes you the ‘responsible person’. If there’s more than one of you, you must work together to meet your responsibilities.

If your staff have been away for a while, they may wish to take a short refresher course in fire safety, whilst new staff members will need to undergo a fire safety induction.  It is important to keep all staff informed of any change in your fire safety arrangements, whether they are working on site or at home.

Fire drills in a socially distant workplace

Fire drills remain vitally important in the workplace.  If there have been changes made (either with new or different staff members, or with the fabric of the surroundings) in your workplace, then it is good practice to review your arrangements.  Are all fire exits still accessible? Are fire extinguishers still in date? Has there been a change in use in any of the rooms on the premises?

Your fire safety point might be in a small location, so new arrangements may need to be made to find a safe space with a larger capacity to ensure social distancing rules can be met.

So called ‘desktop drills’ are becoming more common, where an overview of evacuation procedures are provided to designated fire officers or the ‘responsible person’.  This, however may not account for the questions raised above, and cannot in all fairness be a good substitute for a physical fire drill.

Carrying out the drill

Before embarking on your drill, you should thoroughly review your current arrangements, based on the provision that your assembly point can accommodate the amount of people you have, at a social distance.  If it cannot, then it might be more sensible to create different, smaller zones, where lower numbers of people can congregate more safely.

Assign every employee to one of these new zones (taking into account those who might have mobility issues or disabilities), with a register for each.

Ensure that employees are instructed to leave the building in a calm but rapid fashion, observing social distancing rules as they go.

Do make sure that re-entry to the building is carried out in a sensible and safe way with each zone entering in turn to avoid ‘bottlenecking’ and crowding at the doors.

In the meantime…

Emergency services should only ever be called in the event of a real fire.  False alarms put undue pressure on the service as well as putting the health and safety of its operatives at risk unnecessarily.

Small fires can usually be tackled by a responsible person with an understanding of the fire extinguishers within your building.  Training in how to use fire extinguishers is a service that we provide here at Swift Fire & Safety, as well as offering fire risk assessments and other advice about general fire safety.

All You Need to Know About Fire Safety Equipment

There are regulations surrounding the use and maintenance of Fire Safety equipment for non-domestic premises in England and Wales.  These are detailed in the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, which offers guidance for fire and rescue authorities and other bodies, about their duty to enforce fire safety in non-domestic premises.

 

Fire Safety Equipment

There is a hope that fire safety equipment never has to be used, but it is vitally important that it will function properly if the worst were to happen.

The term Fire Safety Equipment covers many aspects that contribute to fire prevention.  The tools, devices and elements of equipment include

Not every item listed above is compulsory, but the size and type of your building will determine exactly which of these is needed.

 

Fire Safety Equipment Maintenance

All Fire Safety Equipment on your premises should be maintained and serviced regularly.  It is imperitive to have these checks carried out to not only meet legislation, but to protect every person in your premises.

Failing to keep up with maintenance and servicing of your equipment could be costly in the long run. If equipment fails through neglect, the repurcussions could be huge.

Electing a responsible person to take on the responsibility of Fire Safety is recommended; this person would oversee the organisation of all necessary maintenance and tests to ensure all equipment meets the required standards. This information should then be entered into a Fire Safety Logbook.

 

Fire Extinguisher Maintenance

In the case of fire extinguishers, the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 requires them to be present in all commercial premises, and to be serviced annually. We offer this service here at Swift Fire & Safety.

In order to ensure that extinguishers are in good working order, they should be checked by a competent person, ideally a certified expert.  Serveral checks need to be made including making sure that:

  • The extinguisher is in date
  • The extinguisher hasn’t been interfered or tampered with
  • The weight and pressure are correct
  • The instructions are clearly visible
  • The pin and hose are in tact
  • The extinguisher is in visibly good condition

Your certified expert will inform you of any action if it is needed and will advise you if and when old extinguishers need to be replaced.  The visit should be recorded in the Fire Safety Logbook.  You will be issued with a service label to prove the service has been carried out, which is important for Fire Safety Inspections.

Knowing how to use extinguishers effectively and safely can save lives and reduce damage should a fire start. Be sure you are compliant with Health and Safety Regulations and fully prepared for the unthinkable.

 

Fire Safety Policy

According to the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) order 2005, every business must have a Fire Safety Policy. It should explain the general safety policy in place, the duties of the elected responsible person, any training information, equipment and testing and any events relating to fire safety.

This demonstrates commitment to Fire Safety and prevention.

 

Swift Fire & Safety offers a variety of fire prevention and protection services throughout Peterborough and Cambridge to keep your business up to standard. If you’d like more information you can call us on 01733 602955, email info@fireandsafety.com or click here.

 

The Importance of Fire Safety & Training

When we think about fire, catastrophic scenes can spring to mind.  But when you consider that it was man’s first form of heating and cooking, we realise that it has played an integral part in developing the human species.

It is only when fire is not managed carefully that it becomes hazardous.  Flames and smoke can spread quickly causing untold damage to people, animals, property, and the environment.

Whether a fire is started intentionally or by accident, the heat and poor visibility caused by smoke can make it very difficult to deal with effectively. And sadly, in some cases even more difficult to escape safely.

Know the Risks

Fires can start in a variety of ways, either by accident, human error, or with intent to cause harm. Faulty electrics, kitchen mishaps, overloaded plug sockets, discarded cigarettes and storage issues with combustible materials can all be to blame for fires.  If these risks are identified and dealt with accordingly then the likelihood of fire breaking out is much reduced.

PAT testing of electrical equipment should be routinely carried out, and appropriate measures taken to ensure the safety of people inside the building.

Prevention

Minimising the risk of fire is important; take the risks seriously and put measures in place to counter them.  Installing fire alarms, smoke detectors and fire extinguishers together with a comprehensive fire safety plan will minimise the risk of fire taking hold, should it break out.

As fire safety awareness has grown, there has been an overall decrease in fires over the last decade or so.  Fire brigades are focussing more resources on fire prevention and advice on fitting smoke detectors and fire alarms. Fire Safety companies are also now serving the domestic sector as well as the commercial.

Installation of Fire Safety Equipment

No environment or area is immune from the risk of fire. Therefore, installation of early warning systems will maximise the chances of a safe escape. Alarms will sound loudly to warn people that fire or smoke has been detected.  Action can then be taken immediately to evacuate the building as safely as possible, and emergency services called.

Make an Action Plan

Compile a plan including safety routes out of the building, and the fire assembly point. Decide who should be responsible for the use of fire extinguishers if they are needed.  Whether you are at home or at work, share this information, and practice a drill; what could take minutes to practice could ultimately save lives.

If you employ 5 or more staff, you have a legal obligation to carry out a Fire Safety Risk Assessment.  Swift Fire & Safety have assessors qualified to do this; we will ensure your building meets the required standards, ensuring peace of mind.

Training

Knowing how to respond in the event of a fire is a valuable skill.  The actions of one person can have an impact on everyone around them and training will ensure that everybody knows what to do in an emergency situation.

Training should be continuous in order to stay up to date.  If your workplace has new staff, they will need to be trained, and refresher courses will be needed if your company moves premises.  Any change that affects the fire safety risk in your building will need to be addressed and appropriate training given.

Your duty of care is to the people within your building and by providing adequate training it ensures that everybody knows safety procedures, which will reduce the risk of injury, and even death, during a fire.  Your business will be protected, and a small fire could be contained, preventing it from becoming a huge blaze.

Fire and smoke damage can have huge financial consequences for any business. Can you afford to take any chances?

 

You can find more information about our fire alarm installation service here.

Top Causes of Fire in the Workplace

Fire isn’t necessarily the most common of accidents within the workplace, but if it happens, it can be deadly.  The devastation caused by flames ripping through your building can destroy years of work in only minutes.  The consequences of fires can be expensive for your company – the interruption to business with your premises potentially being uninhabitable, the cost of replacing stock and assets, not to mention the loss of valuable client records and information.

We have identified the most common causes of fire in the workplace, and what you can do to help prevent them.

Faulty electrics and electrical equipment

Loose wires, faulty connections, and overloaded plug sockets and extension leads can all result in electrical fires.  This type of fire is not just limited to office space; it can take hold in any work environment such as shops, warehouses, and workshops.  Because most businesses are reliant on even the smallest form of technology, there will always be the risk of unmaintained equipment becoming dangerous.

Business owners are legally required to take care of electrical equipment and regular PAT testing (portable appliance testing).  PAT testing is generally carried out between 12, 24 and 48 months depending on the type of equipment.  Because of the nature of electrical fires, these cannot be put out with water which makes them all the more hazardous.

It is imperative that you have the correct fire extinguishers installed by experts who will train you in their use.

Lack of training within your team

We all know that accidents happen through nobody’s fault. Equipment can burn out that is relatively new or in previously good working order.  Would you and your staff know how to deal with a fire at a moment’s notice? Or indeed, whether it could have been preventable in the first place.

If a fire should break out, it is essential that all staff are aware of the correct procedures.  As an employer it is your duty of care, and a legal requirement that your employees know the evacuation process.  Failure to comply could leave you with a lawsuit for negligence if the worst should happen.  You should appoint a fire safety monitor who will be responsible for taking any required remedial action (eg. the use of fire extinguishers) before the need for calling the emergency services.

Lack of Fire prevention equipment

The most basic of fire prevention equipment is the humble smoke detector.  It is, in most circumstances illegal to operate in a business premises without them. Maintenance and testing are essential to ensure they are in good working order at all times.

It is also a legal requirement in accordance with the Fire Safety Order to install the correct types of fire extinguisher suited to your business.  You may not be able to procure business insurance, or your current policy could be invalid without having a fire risk assessment carried out. Your assessor will advise you about the installation of fire extinguishers in appropriate areas of your building.  Your local Fire Safety company will be able to take care of this for you, one of the services which Swift Fire & Safety offer.

Incorrect storage of combustible materials

Failure to correctly store combustible and flammable materials is a huge contributor in the incidence of fires that could have been avoided.  For example, businesses that rely on power tools that could throw out sparks (welding or grinding equipment) should never have flammable materials close to the working areas.  The same can be said of chemicals which should never be near naked flames.

By ensuring that all materials are stored efficiently, the risk of fire is greatly reduced.  If your business holds large quantities of stock, such as paper products for example, it is essential that procedures are met, and that stock is stored immediately after delivery.

Negligence and/or human error

There are a number of scenarios whereby fire is caused by either negligence or human error.  Carelessly discarded items left close to heat sources, unattended food left to burn in the staff room or kitchen, cooling and fan vents on technical equipment blocked by office paraphernalia, using equipment incorrectly – the list is endless!  Every person in your employ should be responsible for their own health and safety and should be accountable for their actions, whether they are accidental or negligent.

Fire safety and Health and Safety courses are available and should be completed by your staff.  Your local fire safely officer will be able to help you find the appropriate course for your business which can often be completed online.

Arson

Sadly, arson is not as rare as we would like to believe.  Statistics suggest that over 45% of serious fires in the UK are caused by arson. Large industrial buildings and commercial businesses can be a target for vandals and other criminal activity.

Unfortunately, there is little that can be done to eliminate the risk of your business being targeted 100%, but there are measures that can be taken to make it less attractive to the criminal fraternity.  Identify where your building may be vulnerable and install a visible alarm system and CCTV.  These security systems are a considerable deterrent to would be criminals.

If you are concerned that these systems will not be enough of a deterrent, then an added layer of security could come in the form of an interior sprinkler system. Once activated, sprinklers greatly reduce the amount of damage caused if fire were to break out either by accident or criminal activity.

 

You can find out more about our Fire Extinguisher Installation and Maintenance services here.