Trust reminds public to take steps to reduce fires at home

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Saturday, May 5th, 2012
As accidental house fires claimed 10 lives in the last year (2011/12) across Northern Ireland, the Southern Trust would like to remind the public of its free electric blanket testing service and the need to take steps to prevent fire. Each year old or faulty electric blankets cause fires. The service is available to anyone living in the Southern Trust area. Last year 610 blankets were tested by our trained electrical engineer and out of these, 342 blankets failed the safety test as they were either too old or were deemed to pose a fire risk to their owners. Blankets can fail due to wear and tear or become damaged because they are stored incorrectly. Clients whose blankets failed are given a £15.00 voucher towards the cost of a new blanket. Figures from this year tell us that a total of 259 people made use of these vouchers to purchase a new electric blanket. Safety information relating to electric blankets, fire safety and other common accidents is provided on the day. Anyone wishing to have their electric blanket tested should contact the Promoting Wellbeing Team on Tel: 028 3834 4973 or download a request form from the Healthy Living / Accident Prevention section of this website. Testing days will take place from September onwards. According to data published for 2009/2010 the Southern Trust area had the third highest number of major fires of all five Trusts across Northern Ireland. During this period the Northern Ireland Fire and Recue Service attended 353 major fires, 74 of which were in people’s homes. This reminder also comes following a recent seminar held in the Southern Trust to examine the link between fatal fires and vulnerable groups. Nina Daly, Accident Prevention Officer, stated: “Anyone can be affected by fire. I would urge all households to take three simple steps to avoid fire. Firstly, have a working smoke alarm in your home and test it every week to ensure that it is working – don’t assume that it is. Second, take measures at night to make your home safe. Extinguish smoking materials properly, place a guard over your fire, switch off electrical appliances and close all internal doors. Finally, make a fire escape plan and practice it with everyone in the household.” She continued: “Our recent fire seminar highlighted that there are many vulnerable people at risk of a fire. Older age, poor physical health, the impact of a physical or sensory impairment or mental illness, can make some people less mindful of fire risks in their home and less able to implement safety measures to prevent fire. Prescribed medications, alcohol and other drugs can have sleep inducing effects, making a person less aware and sometimes totally unresponsive to the signs of a fire, even the sound of a working smoke alarm. Vital time is lost in these situations resulting in the individual’s escape being delayed or becoming impossible once the fire takes hold.” Andy Sinclair, Station Commander, Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service, said: “We work tirelessly to protect all our vulnerable groups to ensure they keep safe from the dangers of fire in their homes. We target our free home fire safety checks and work closely with partner agencies to help protect the vulnerable in our community. However we want to reach a stage where we have no fatalities in Northern Ireland due to accidental house fires and we will continue to dedicate ourselves to that.” He added “We do need the community’s help and you can help us to help you by availing of a free home fire safety check for your own home and also for vulnerable and elderly family, friends and neighbours. For a free home fire safety check call 028 9260 0477 or log onto our website where fire safety advice is also available”. Information on electrical safety and fire prevention is available from the Electrical Safety Council’s (ESC) website at: An electrical safety checklist app is now available for smart phone users, produced by the ESC. The electric blanket testing service is funded by the Public Health Agency and is coordinated by the Promoting Wellbeing Team. It is run in partnership with a range of statutory, voluntary and community based organisations including the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service.
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