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Fire safety tips – Stay safe this winter

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Posted June 9, 2016 by myjoburg in My Joburg
Fire safety (640x360)

ER24 is urging people to remember safety first when trying to stay warm this winter.

It is not uncommon for emergency personnel to get called out to residential fires especially during winter. Often, paramedics treat people for smoke inhalation or severe burn injuries.

Overloading of plugs, makeshift fires left unattended and the incorrect or negligent use of heaters are some of the contributing factors to fires.

You can avoid injury as well as loss of property by ensuring proper safety measures are in place. Below are some tips:

Heater safety

 

  • Ensure that your heater is in good working order and that cords and other components are not damaged. If you use a gas heater, inspect it to ensure there are no leaks. If valves, pipes or other components of the heater are damaged, either replace the parts that can be replaced or buy a new heater.
  • Leaking gas is extremely dangerous and may result in an explosion. If you suspect a leak or if you are unsure, rather seek the assistance of a professional. Gas cylinders must be filled or exchanged at a reputable dealer.
  • Ensure that there is proper ventilation when using gas heaters or other fuel burning appliances for example. Outdoor heaters should not be used indoors. Flammable liquids meant for other purposes should not be used to start a fire.
  • Never leave a heater unattended while it is still on.
  • Do not place heaters on carpets or too close to curtains, couches and other items that could easily be set alight.
  • Do not use makeshift heaters, stoves included, to keep warm.

Plugs and electric blankets

 

  • Ensure plugs are not overloaded or damaged.
  • Before using an electrical blanket, ensure that it is not torn and that there is no mould, visible damage to cables or burn marks on the blanket. If any of these are present, replace the blanket.

Fireplace

 

  • If you have a fireplace, ensure you maintain it. Have the chimney inspected and cleaned, preferably by a professional.
  • Ensure that you make the fire small enough to be able to control. This will also reduce the chances of flames spreading out of the fireplace.
  • Ensure that there is proper ventilation in the room.
  • Put an appropriate screen in front of the fireplace to safeguard your family from possible burns as well as to prevent embers from jumping out.
  • Keep flammable items away from your fireplace. Ensure you extinguish the fire before going to bed or leaving home.
  • Keep a small household fire extinguisher near the fireplace. Make sure that everyone in the family knows how to use it.

Additional safety measures

 

  • It is important to install smoke detectors and to test them regularly to ensure that they work.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher at home.
  • Check your windows and ensure that they open easily. You may need to use a window as an escape should there be a fire.
  • Keeping a ladder at home is advised especially if you live in a multi-storey house.
  • Have an escape plan. Ensure all members of the family know what to do and where to go in case of a fire at home. Ensure all emergency exits are clear.
  • In case of a fire at home, sound the fire alarm if you have one and call emergency services. Exit the building. If caught in a smoke-filled room, get as low as possible to the ground and exit the house. You can also cover your mouth and nose with a moist cloth if you are able to, to reduce smoke inhalation.

General fire safety

 

  • Keep matches and lighters out of reach of children.
  • Candles are a common cause of residential fires. Candles are often used instead of a flashlight when there is a power outage or even in instances where people do not have electricity. Often, the candle is placed in a plastic makeshift holder or simply stuck down on a table without a holder. Lit candles should be put in a proper non-flammable holder that cannot easily be bumped or blown over by the wind. It should also not be placed near curtains or anything flammable. Do not leave a candle burning if you go to bed or leave the property. Also, never leave children unattended near a lit candle or any fire for that matter.
  • Never start a fire or use a heater while intoxicated.
  • Never sleep with a lit cigarette in your hand. Also, never discard lit cigarettes in areas that could easily be set alight (such as a veld or dustbin).

Informal settlements

Fires at informal settlements increase over the colder months. Gas heaters and open flames in small rooms are common causes of fires in informal settlements. Residents are urged to take special care. Fires can spread rapidly due to the flammable materials used to build several of the houses. Fires also spread easily as a result of the houses being located close to each other.

What to do if you sustain burn wounds

People with extensive burn wounds need to be transported to hospital as soon as possible. Emergency services should be contacted immediately. For minor burns, run clean cool tap water over the burn for at least 10 to 20 minutes. If arms and legs are affected, try to elevate the person to decrease the swelling.

What not to do if you sustain burn wounds:

 

  • Do not pop or remove blisters.
  • Do not put ice on the burn/s.
  • Do not use home remedies like coffee, butter, toothpaste, mustard, soy sauce and milk. The patient stands a greater chance of infection and further wound damage if these substances are used.

The ER24 Emergency Contact Centre can be reached on 084 124 for any medical emergency.

 

 


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