As the 20th annual Carers Week starts today, firefighters are reminding carers that help is available to keep them, and the people they look after, safe from fire.
Fire safety is yet another worry on an ever-growing list for those with the extra responsibility of caring for an elderly relative, sick friend or disabled family member.
According to the 2011 Census, one in eight adults in the UK is a carer – so this adds up to tens of thousands of people in Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes with particular fire safety concerns.
Neil Boustred, head of Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service’s community safety team, said: “There are many issues a carer must think about – from the extra time it takes for people with difficulty moving to escape a fire in the home, to the added risks of flammable equipment such as oxygen cylinders.
“A huge variety of specialist safety equipment is available – vibrating smoke alarms for the hard of hearing, easy-reach smoke alarm testers for those with limited movement and linked alarm systems are just a few options to help you feel safer.
“The simplest thing any carer can do to prevent a fire in their home is to make a few easy additions to their normal routine.
“Testing your loved one’s smoke alarm weekly, and planning an escape route, could help give them the vital extra seconds they need to get out in a fire.
“Simple steps such as closing doors at night and avoiding overloaded plug sockets will help reduce the risk in their home.”
> Neil offered the following checklist for carers:
Make sure the person you care for is registered with your local fire and rescue service if they have sight, hearing, mobility difficulties, or if they use oxygen.
This will mean a fire crew is made aware of your circumstances in the event of an emergency. If you live in Buckinghamshire or Milton Keynes, ring 01296 744477 or email email@example.com to book a free safety check or for further advice.
If you have a text phone or minicom, you can contact the emergency services on 18000.
Make sure that the person you care for knows what to do in the event of a fire. It’s a good idea to practise an escape so that they feel confident enough to do it by day or night.
A working smoke alarm can give your loved ones the extra time they need to escape a house fire. Make testing the batteries of their alarms part of your weekly routine.
Most house fires happen at night, so make sure your smoke alarm is in a position that will wake the person you care for - for example, in the bedroom.
Simple steps such as closing doors at night and avoiding overloaded plug sockets will help reduce the risk of a fire starting or spreading.
If you use oxygen, make sure the equipment is stored safely out of direct sunlight, well ventilated, always dry and away from heat sources. Never smoke, have open flames or use electrical appliances such as hairdryers while using oxygen.
If you live with the person you care for, consider fitting an intercom which will allow you to alert someone else in the house in an emergency.
If you or the person you care for has difficulty hearing, you can get specialist smoke alarms which use a strobe light and vibrating pads. Alternatively, consider linking the alarm system to your own – this can alert you to any danger.
A coloured sticker on the smoke alarm can help people with trouble seeing it to test it.
Placing a tactile indicator along your escape route can make it easier for those with sight difficulties to find the exit.
Easy-access smoke alarms are available for people who have trouble moving around. These can be tested from the wall rather than the ceiling. The Disabled Living Foundation can provide more information on these products.
Disabled Living Foundation contact details
Main website: www.dlf.org.uk | DFL Data www.dlf-data.org.uk
AskSARA www.asksara.org.uk | Living Made Easy www.livingmadeeasy.org.uk
Telephone helpline: 0300 999 0004, 10am to 4pm, Monday to Friday
Switchboard: 0207 289 6111, 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday
General email: firstname.lastname@example.org