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Stop the home fires burning

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03/02/2006

More than five million adults have no fire safety devices such as alarms, fire blankets or extinguishers in their homes. Christina Jordan reports

Every year in the UK there are more than 58,000 home fires resulting in 11,500 injuries, according to Halifax Insurance.

Its research also highlighted that Britons lack a basic level of fire safety knowledge – for example, almost one and a half million (1,434,000) UK adults would risk electrocution by putting an electrical fire out with water.
More than eight-and-a-half million (8,567,000) UK adults do not have a smoke alarm installed in their home to alert them if a fire broke out. Furthermore, over 25 million UK households do not own a fire extinguisher and a staggering 31 million do not have a fire blanket. More than five million (5,227,000) adults do not have any of these basic fire safety devices in their homes.

Burning issue

The research found that almost four million (3,946,000) do not know the correct procedure to tackle a small electrical fire, such as a toaster catching alight. Almost one and a half million (1,434,000) would risk serious injury by dousing an electrical fire with water. The correct procedure would be to pull the plug out or switch off the power at the fuse box before combating the flames with a fire blanket, or non-water based fire extinguisher.

And perhaps most worrying is that, despite extensive education campaigns by fire brigades across the country, almost a quarter of a million (248,000) British adults still believe that dousing a chip pan fire with water is the most appropriate way to put it out. In reality, throwing water on a chip pan fire could make the situation worse and create a potentially lethal fireball.

Vicky Emmott, senior underwriting manager Halifax Home Insurance, says:

“It is worrying that so many householders still do not have the basic fire safety devices in their homes. With the prices of smoke alarms starting at just £5 from supermarkets or DIY stores there is no excuse for people not to protect themselves.”

Andrew Stoppard, of Peckham, London, survived a house fire six years ago, and agrees that there is no excuse for people not protecting themselves. He says: “Fires can be devastating, and not just to your belongings. And there are some things that even the best building and contents insurance can’t replace. Don’t risk your safety for the sake of a few quid for a smoke alarm.”

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