Essex fire service urges people to stay safe this Christmas

AS WELL as being a time for giving and celebration, Christmas is also the time of year when people are most likely to suffer a devastating fire in their home.

It is a little known fact that the run up to Christmas sees more accidental house fires than any time of year – in 2008, 10 per cent of all the accidental fires in homes occurred in the run up to Christmas Day.

But making sure that you and your family have a safe and happy Christmas is easy, says the Essex County Fire and Rescue Service – just take a few simple precautions by planning escape routes, installing smoke alarms and testing them weekly.

Senior divisional officer Julian Ashley said: “It is important to be fire safe in your home all year round, but Christmas is a time when there are extra risks coming into the home so it is important to take extra precautions.

“This includes potentially dangerous electrical decorations, highly flammable trees and extra candles.

“Also at this time of year people tend to cook more and drink more and this can also lead to problems.

“People also vastly underestimate the deadly strength of toxic smoke and overestimate how long they have to escape should a fire break out. The reality is that just two to three breaths of smoke in a fire can render a person unconscious.

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“Christmas should be a time for celebration rather than tragedy and for this reason I’m urging people to be fire aware and stay fire safe.”

The ECFRS has published its top tips to stay safe this Christmas. They are:

1. Ensure you have a working smoke alarm installed on all levels of your home. Test your smoke alarms weekly and never remove batteries to power presents!

2. Never leave cooking unattended and avoid cooking whilst drunk. The majority of fires start in the kitchen so this is a high risk area. Always turn off kitchen appliances when you have finished cooking.

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

4. Ensure you switch off fairy lights and unplug them before you go to bed, or leave the house. Check your Christmas tree lights conform to the British Standard (BS EN 60598).

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

6. Don’t overload sockets – ensure only 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.

7. Make sure cigarettes are extinguished properly and never smoke in bed. Put it out, right out.

8. Check on older relatives and neighbours this Christmas, as they are at greater risk from fire.

9. Ask the experts – Fire and Rescue Services in England offer free home fire risk checks to identify potential fire risks and advise what to do to reduce or prevent them. This may even include the free installation of a smoke alarm – the ideal gift for keeping your family safe

10. And finally, in the event of fire: get out, stay out and call 999.