Welcome from the Chief
Start the new year with safety in mind
Many of us make New Year’s resolutions - and one I’m hoping that residents across the region will adhere to is to protect their homes by taking on board some basic safety advice.
We attended a number of serious, some even tragic, fires during 2019 – so my heartfelt plea to residents is for us to work together to make 2020 as safe as possible.
Fitting a smoke alarm could save your life
The most important advice I can give is to ensure you have working smoke alarms installed in your home, and to test them regularly. A working alarm can give you the vital time needed to escape in the event of a fire, and the early warning to allow firefighters to tackle it before it takes hold.
We’ve seen many instances of smoke alarms alerting occupants over the last year, including a fire in Trefor, Gwynedd in December when the sleeping resident was woken by her smoke alarm following a candle fire in her home.
Smoke alarms offer vital protection for you and your loved ones, but unfortunately most people simply fit and forget, and are not aware when the detector might be coming to the end of its lifespan.
So remember to maintain your alarms in good working order and test them by pushing the button regularly. Make sure there is at least one smoke alarm on every level of your home - fit smoke alarms on landings, hallways and in rooms which have an electrical appliance. Also, please take a moment to check on those who may be less able than you to ensure that they are also fully protected.
Don’t forget your cooking
Cooking is the main cause of house fires in North Wales – it’s important therefore that you never leave cooking unattended. Avoid cooking while under the influence of alcohol and always turn off kitchen appliances when finished with them. It may sound obvious advice but you would be surprised how many incidents we attend where this has resulted in lives being put at risk.
Firefighters were called to a flat in Caernarfon in December where a man was hospitalised for smoke inhalation following a fire caused by cooking left unattended. Time and time again we attend house fires which have started in the kitchen – it is so easy to forget your cooking, especially if you are tired, distracted or have been drinking. However, the consequences can be devastating.
Our message is clear - never turn your back on your cooking, even for a minute.
Never leave candles burning
The naked flame of a candle poses an obvious risk. The best way of reducing this risk is not to use candles in the first place - but if you do decide to use them, never leave them burning unattended. Keep them in a secure holder, out of the reach of children and away from flammable material such as curtains or soft furnishings.
Residents were shocked by the photo of the destruction caused to a bathroom in Holyhead in April when candles were left unattended on a bath – this photo was shared across social media and helped highlight our advice that battery powered candles are a far safer option.
Put out your cigarette
If you’re a smoker, put your cigarette out - right out. Make sure cigarettes are fully extinguished and take care when drinking alcohol or if you are tired. It's easy to fall asleep while a cigarette is still burning and to set furniture alight.
E-cigarettes also carry their own dangers - they use a rechargeable battery to power the vaporiser and these batteries require recharging on a regular basis. I would advise you only ever purchase these products from a reputable source and only use the battery and charger provided with the e-cigarette when charging. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions, and turn off and unplug them before you go to bed. Never leave items on charge or unattended for long periods as e-cigarettes are known to overheat when charging.
Get switched on to electrical safety
Many of the fires we attend in North Wales are electrical – to prevent such a fire you should avoid overloading sockets and ensure you only use one plug per socket. Always turn off plugs when they are not in use, except those that are designed to be left on, like freezers.
Electricity is often overlooked as a fire hazard, perhaps because there is no flame, but this doesn't mean there is no risk – never underestimate the risk of fire from electricity.
Tumble dryers have accounted for 57% of all fires involving white goods in Wales over the last three years. During Electrical Safety week last November, three people had a lucky escape from a fire in their Llandudno home following a tumble dryer fire. Luckily, a smoke alarm alerted the residents and they were able to call 999 and escape safely. Please take great care when using tumble dryers – don't turn the tumble dryer on before you leave the house or go to bed. Tumble dryers contain powerful motors with fast moving parts that can get very hot. Keep your dryer well ventilated, make sure the vent pipe is kink free and not blocked or crushed in any way, and always clean out the filter after using your tumble dryer. Allow each drying programme, including the 'cool down cycle', to complete fully before emptying the machine - if you stop the machine mid cycle, the clothing will still be hot. Don’t ignore the warning signs – if you can smell burning or clothes feel hotter at the end of the cycle, stop using your appliance and have it checked out by a professional.
We also witnessed the damage that can be caused by fires caused by mobile phone chargers at incidents in Llangefni last May and Rhyl last August. Phone chargers can get really hot - never leave items on charge or unattended for long periods and ensure the plug to the charger is switched off even if it’s not connected to your phone or electrical item. Never mix and match chargers or use aftermarket chargers – always use the charger supplied.
What to do if there is a fire
I hope you never experience a fire in your home - but it’s vital that you know what to do in the event of a fire occurring.
Practice your escape route so you can safely get out, stay out and call 999.
My very best wishes for a safe and happy 2020.