Fire safety during the summer months isn’t always top of our minds. BBQs and holidays, yes. But worrying about fires breaking out? Why do we need to be concerned?
Fire hazards are as prevalent as ever during the summer months. Statistics show that over 70,000 wild fires are started every year, aided by dry grass and less rainfall. We’re also more likely to be outside during warmer months taking part in activities (like the aforementioned BBQs) which, if we’re careless, can lead to fires starting.
Outdoor fires tend to increase during hot spells, which isn’t always during traditional summer months. August was particularly hazardous during 2016/17 with an average of 580 fires per day attended by fire rescue and services. Conversely, during 2017/18, April was the busiest month for firefighters with an average of 683 per day.
As a business or an individual, it makes sense to stop and think about the ways in which you might be affected. Fire is devastating and those that start outside can easily spread to property and cause serious damage, not to mention threaten personal safety.
Let us take you through our top tips for fire safety during the summer months.
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Summer Fire Safety Enquiry
Check your electrical equipment is in good condition
Electrical equipment is a prime fire safety hazard, if it’s not kept in good condition and checked regularly. Government figures show that ‘misuse of equipment or appliances’ was the largest cause of all dwelling fires in 2017/18, with ‘faulty wires and leads’ the second largest cause.
Offices are full of electrical items and the additional heat of summertime requires some of those to work overtime. As we all know, air conditioning in the UK doesn’t come as standard so if a heatwave strikes, we all reach for the desk fans and portable air conditioning units.
How recently were yours checked and serviced if necessary? Are there any other steps you need to take to ensure they’re fully functional? Here are our top tips to keep you safe.
- While every member of staff may be crying out for a fan, please DON’T overload sockets or adaptors with electrical appliances. Check the rating of any adaptors and sockets as overloading can easily lead to overheating (and possible fire).
- You should also check that PAT testing has been carried out on fans and air conditioning units. This also applies to any other electrical appliance on your premises.
- PAT testing will check for loose wiring and fraying cables, but if you notice something that has occurred more recently, don’t use it until it’s repaired.
- Think twice about where you position your fans – in a crowded environment, it’s tempting to put it wherever it will fit – but you may be covering up air vents which can then cause overheating.
It’s not just electrical items which create fire safety hazards. Offices and other commercial buildings contain many combustible materials such as paper, rubbish bins and soft furnishings (which should always be made from fire resistant materials). Keeping offices tidy and emptying bins regularly goes a long way to reducing the potential for fires.
Are you vulnerable to arson?
Arson is devastating to businesses and homes alike. We know that when a business suffers an arson attack, it can be challenging, to say the least, to recover from the effects.
This report shows that during 2017/18, there were over 80,000 fires started deliberately (of which, just over 21,000 were classified as primary) which was a small increase on the previous year. That said, arson attacks are on a long-term decline; figures from ten years ago paint a different picture.
Arson is a fire safety hazard all year round, but during the summer months, when fires start and spread easily, it can be an even greater risk. The report notes that ‘weather is more likely to affect outdoor primary and secondary fires which make up a large share of all fires’.
Here are our tips on how to avoid becoming a casualty of arson.
- Does your fire risk assessment include an arson impact report? If not, it’s worth taking the time to do this. We can guide you through the process and understand what’s required.
- Consider ways in which you can protect your property. Have you got good security, particularly during hours when your premises are unmanned? CCTV and security lighting are great deterrents or you might want to consider video alarm monitoring which alerts you instantly to intruders. Check out our security solutions for inspiration.
- Take stock of what could be attractive to would-be arsonists. Is rubbish lying around? Are your bins on view? When your premises are closed, is everything securely locked with all windows shut? What is your ‘end of day’ routine and how much heed does it pay to security?
- If you notice behaviour that concerns you (gangs hanging around your building), please report it to the police. Nipping it in the bud may prevent an arson attack further down the line.
Treat fire safety equipment with the respect it deserves
Fire safety equipment, such as fire doors and fire escapes, are at risk of being treated like part of the furniture. Because they are (thankfully) used only in emergencies, we tend to forget about them and the important job they do to save lives.
We often see fire doors propped open with boxes to provide easier access to corrridors, but during hot summer months, this happens more frequently to boost air circulation.
It’s tempting to do this but remember that an open fire door is no more use in holding back fire than any other door. Fire doors are designed to resist the spread of fire and give you valuable time to escape a burning building.
Fire escapes are also crucial during an emergency so, as always ensure they are kept clear of anything which might get in your way during an evacuation.
If you’re unsure your fire doors meet current safety standards, always have them inspected by a reputable fire safety supplier.
Having a summer party? Make sure your equipment is safe
Summer parties on a Friday afternoon always make sense. Your business premises might lend themselves perfectly to an impromptu BBQ and while we love the idea, we’re also wise to what can go wrong if safety advice isn’t heeded.
If you’re using a gas BBQ, run through some basic safety checks such as:
- Only ever use BBQs outside, even if they’re gas
- Gas cylinders are combustible items so take care when changing them.
- Once you finished cooking, turn off the cylinder before turning off the BBQ.
- Be sensible about how and where you store unused gas cylinders and once they’re empty, make sure you dispose of them responsibly.
If you’re using a good old-fashioned coal BBQ, you should:
- Take care to use charcoal sensibly, i.e. don’t overload the BBQ as this is a fire hazard, and only use fuels as recommended by the manufacturer (yes, we know of someone who poured petrol on theirs to ‘get things going’)
- Position your BBQ in an open space, clear of anything combustible such as rubbish, fences, trees etc.
- Water or sand in a bucket, next to the BBQ, is handy should a small fire break out
- When your party is over, let the coals and ash cool completely before disposing of them somewhere safe
And finally, never leave a BBQ unattended or let children play nearby!
Outdoor fire safety tips
For business owners and individuals, there are many ways in which general fire safety hazards can cause upset. During summertime, everyone is outdoors more taking part in events such as county shows, festivals and parties.
The beautiful British countryside is usually the backdrop to such festivities and while many of us have experienced the joy of camping during a heavy downpour, it’s usually drier and hotter in the summer months. Secondary fires (those not involving buildings or people, usually outdoor fires) still occur in significant numbers – there were 82,746 in 2016/17.
What should you consider if you’re working or playing outdoors this summer?
- Unless you’re Bear Grylls, it’s probably best not to attempt building an open fire in a field. Without experience, things can quickly go wrong.
- If you’re hosting an event outdoors, make sure visitors are clear on the ground rules regarding smoking and where/how to safely extinguish cigarettes.
- As mentioned above, BBQ owners should take the due care and consideration required when operating and shutting down their BBQs.
- If you’re camping, carefully store all flammable liquids or gas cylinders – tent fabric is highly combustible.
- Never cook inside a tent.
- Use torches to help you see in the dark, not candles or other naked flames.
Fire safety is important all year round, but summertime brings with it additional considerations. We want everyone to enjoy themselves, so it’s worth taking the time to read these summer fire safety tips.
And if you want more advice on your own fire safety, please give us a call. We’re always happy to help!
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