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Staffordshire Fire & Rescue Service - Preventing, Protecting, Responding

Avoid Tragedy This Christmas

smoke house christmas safety
Trainer, Rebecca Gill, and Training Manager, Jim Keegan, are urging people to stay safe this Christmas

Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service is urging people not to let their Christmas go up in smoke with statistics revealing most accidental house fires happen during the Festive season.

Since 2004, the average number of Christmas period dwelling fires across the county is 56. This compares to a monthly average of 50 for the last 12 months (Oct 08-Oct 09).*

"We supply and fit smoke detectors and other safety equipment free of charge. Our Christmas present to residents is to make them safe."

Peter Dartford, Chief Fire Officer/Chief Executive, Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service

Last December Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service attended 51 accidental house fires – a nine per cent increase in the average number of house fires for the rest of the year.*

With this in mind the Service is appealing for people to make sure their smoke alarms work properly – or install alarms if they haven’t already done so.

Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service can provide free Home Fire Risk Checks to all residents to ensure Christmas 2009 is remembered for all the right reasons and not heartbreak or tragedy.

Chief Fire Officer/Chief Executive Peter Dartford said: "Fire safety is important all year round but especially at this time of year.

"The best Christmas present anyone can give a loved one is a Home Fire Risk Check. We supply and fit smoke detectors and other safety equipment free of charge.  Our Christmas present to residents is to make them safe.

"Elderly people and those who live alone can be particularly vulnerable because they may find it more difficult to quickly escape a property if a fire occurs.

"Friends and neighbours should encourage them to contact us on 0800 0241 999 so we can arrange to visit them. If we don’t know about these people we can’t help them."

Peter added extra distractions in the home at Christmas – such as trees, candles and lights - make for potential hazards.

"People should always buy British Standard fairy lights, place candles in holders and away from curtains, never leave cooking unattended and of course, check their smoke alarms work," he said.

Research undertaken in support of the national Don’t Drown in Toxic Smoke campaign reveals most accidental fires (54%) happen in the kitchen as a result of cooking and the main reason alarms do not activate when a fire happens is missing or flat batteries.*2

Just two to three breaths of toxic smoke in a house fire can render a person unconscious.

Statistics show people are twice as likely to die in an accidental house fire if they do not have a working smoke alarm.

"A home Fire Risk Check will identify potential risks at your property and advise on what you can do to prevent incidents happening," said Peter.

"Alarms should be fitted on all levels of the home and best tested weekly.

In the case of a fire people should have the quickest and safest escape route already planned."

Festive Fire Safety Tips

Most fires start in the kitchen so never leave cooking unattended. All appliances should be turned off after meals have been prepared.

Ensure children are not in the kitchen when cooking takes place and keep matches and lighters out of reach.

Keep decorations, cards and wrapping paper away from candles, fires, lights and heaters. Never leave candles unattended.

Switch off all fairy lights and unplug them at night and when leaving the house. Check Christmas tree lights conform to the British Standard (BS EN 60598).

Use an RCD on outdoor electrical equipment (a safety device that can save lives by instantly switching off the power if there is a fault).

Don’t overload sockets, keep one plug to one socket. Make sure plugs are turned off when not being used.

Extinguish cigarettes properly and never smoke in bed.

Take time to check on older relatives and neighbours this Christmas, as they are at greater risk from fire.

Ensure there is a working smoke alarm installed on all levels of your home. Check batteries on a weekly basis.