Free home fire risk checks for older people

Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service is asking older people, and those who support them, to consider how well protected they are from fire this Grandparents Day (October 5).

Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service is asking older people, and those who support them, to consider how well protected they are from fire this Grandparents' Day (October 5).

While being older doesn't necessarily mean having to rely on others, it does mean you are at an increased risk of having a fire in your home, said a fire spokesman.

"Recent statistics show that a third of all fatalities caused by accidental house fires involve those over 75. Aside from the risk of injury, fire can also cause damage to your home or loss of valuables which can be a traumatic and costly burden," he said.

Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service recorded that for 2007- 2008, 15 per cent of all casualties and fatalities were over the age of 60.

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Fire safety is everyone's responsibility, which is why, this Grandparents' Day Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service is asking:

* Older people - to think about fire safety and how safe your home is (see their top tips). Silver surfers can go online and take a self-assessment to highlight key danger areas and build a fire safety plan relevant to their home. Or they can sign up for a free Home Fire Risk Check and get all the information and reassurance on fire prevention in the home from the trusted source of Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service.

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* Relatives and friends - do you have an older relative, neighbour or friend who might need some help and information on fire safety? Make sure they are safe and give them the greatest gift of all this Grandparents' Day by popping in for a chat, checking out what current prevention measures they have and helping them sign up for a Home Fire Risk Check.

Home Safety Manager David Hodge, who has seen many fires involving older people, said: "Although many older people won't consider themselves to be vulnerable, sadly it's a fact that you are at a greater risk from fire if you are over 75. This Grandparents' Day give this gift that costs nothing, to protect yourself or a loved one - a Home Fire Risk Check. A working smoke alarm, combined with an understanding of how to reduce your risk and what to do if a fire breaks out, can offer all parties peace of mind."

Here are 10 top tips from Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service to ensure older people are safe from fire in the home this Grandparents Day:

1. Fit and maintain a smoke alarm - you should have one on each level of your home. The ideal position is on the ceiling, in the middle of a room, or on the hallway and landing. Don't put alarms in or near kitchens or bathrooms where smoke or steam can set them off by accident.

2. Test it weekly. A working smoke alarm can give you valuable time to get out, stay out and call 999.

3. Don't remove the batteries - if your smoke alarm keeps going off accidentally while you are cooking, don't remove the batteries. Instead move the alarm or change it for one with a silencer button.

4. Stay safe in the kitchen - This is the area where the majority of house fires start so never leave cooking unattended. If you need to leave the kitchen turn electrical appliances off and take pans off the heat.

5. In the event of a fire 'Get out, Stay out and Call 999!' - Don't delay for valuables, don't investigate or try to tackle the fire. Use a mobile, a neighbour's phone or a phone box to call 999. If someone needs to be rescued wait safely outside for the firefighters who have the equipment and training to do it. Never go back in.

6. Don't overload plug sockets - one plug per socket is the rule, be careful not to let leads trail over cookers or touch water.

7. Get 'key clever' - keys for windows and doors should always be kept in an accessible place where everyone can find them, so you can get out quickly in the event of a fire.

8. Plan your escape route. Make sure you and your family know the quickest way out in the event of fire. Consider an alternative route in case your usual one is blocked.

9. Candles - Keep candles in secure holders, on a surface that doesn't burn, and away from any materials that may catch fire, like curtains.

10. Electric blankets - Make sure they are turned off and stored flat or rolled up (not folded) when not in use. Never use them with a hot water bottle. Statistics show that fires caused by electrical appliances, electric blankets have the highest rate of injury, with 441 injuries for every 1,000 fires.

For a free home safety visit or to arrange one for someone you know please call 0800 73 11 822.

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