Buckinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service is backing a national campaign, which is running throughout June, urging people to make sure everyone knows how to escape from a fire in their home.
Although a working smoke alarm can give occupants enough time, a blocked exit, a locked door or unfamiliar surroundings can delay them by vital seconds, exposing them to the fatal dangers of toxic smoke.
Neil Boustred, head of Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service’s community safety team, said: “Just two to three breaths of toxic smoke could leave you unconscious, so every second counts when escaping a fire.
“A working smoke alarm, and knowing the escape plan in an emergency, could make all the difference.
With Carers’ Week (June 9 to 15) and Child Safety Week (June 23 to 29) both fast approaching, Neil is also reminding people of the vital importance of helping those who are less able to help themselves.
He added: “If you have dependants or someone less able to care for, it could take more time to escape. Make sure you’re always prepared, your exits are clear and everyone knows what to do if the worst should happen.”
Fit a smoke alarm and test it weekly or monthly. Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service will carry out a free safety check in your home, fitting free smoke alarms where needed, if you ring 01296 744477 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Prepare and practise a plan of action to help you act quickly if there’s a fire in your home.
Keep your escape route clear to ensure a speedy exit.
Make sure everyone - including guests, babysitters and childminders - knows where the door and window keys are kept.
If you have a dependant to think about:
Make sure you’ve planned an escape route and think of any difficulties people may have getting out and help they may need, such as a torch to light their way or a stair rail.
Consider the best place to go if the worst happens and someone can’t escape, especially if they have trouble moving around or can’t get downstairs on their own.
Nominate someone in your home (perhaps a child) to be the ‘escape champ’. Regularly role-play escape routes and give children the responsibility to keep escape routes clear.
Additional advice for people living in high-rise buildings
Purpose-built flats are designed to be fire-resisting. A fire should not spread from one flat to another, so you should not need to leave your home if there is a fire elsewhere in the block. That said, if in doubt, get out.
Always leave if your flat is affected by smoke or heat or if told to do so by firefighters.
Your stairway is designed to be safe for escape throughout the course of a fire. Always use the stairway to descend to ground level if escaping.
Don’t use lifts and balconies if there is a fire.
It is easy to get confused in smoke, so count how many doors you need to go through to reach the stairs.
Check there is nothing in the corridors or stairways, such as boxes or rubbish, that could catch fire.
Make sure doors to stairways are not locked.
Make sure everyone knows where the fire alarms are.
You should still get a smoke alarm for your own flat even if there is a warning system in the block.