Fire at home
7Sep, 2021

Safety during fire season

By: | Tags: , | Comments: 0 | September 7th, 2021

No doubt the recent intense cold snap sent South Africans scurrying for their heaters and electric blankets … as well as stocking up on coal and fire wood for open fireplaces.

All of which have the potential to cause fires in our homes.

Most fires are caused by human negligence or electrical faults. Non-compliant wiring, overloaded plugs or faulty electrical appliances can catch fire unexpectedly. People who live in older homes – e.g. old wood and iron structures – need to be particularly vigilant, as the wiring could have degraded over the years, or is simply not compliant with latest safety standards.

Now is a good time to take stock of your home in terms of these risks. Especially if you have an elderly family member who may need to be reminded of potential risks like leaving appliances on for extended periods of time, or forgetting about a pot left boiling on the stove.

Here are some tips to protect your home and yourself from fire:
  • Keep matches/lighters out of the reach of children.
  • Don’t store flammable liquids or pool chemicals anywhere near a heat source or exposed wiring.
  • Never leave an open fire or burning candle unattended. If you have a fireplace, use a metal fireguard to prevent sparks or burning logs from falling out and setting carpets or chairs alight.
  • Do not smoke in bed.
  • Do not overload electrical sockets or run electrical cords under carpets.
  • Take care with portable heat generating appliances such as irons, kettles and heaters.
  • Switch off your electric blanket before getting into bed.
  • Check electric cables regularly for damage; discard appliances with frayed cords.
  • Never cover a heater – take note of warnings on all appliances.
  • Be very careful when heating oil on a stove top, especially a gas hob. Make sure there are no dish cloths, paper towels or oven gloves near the stove, and regularly clean off grease build up.
  • Buy a small fire extinguisher/fire blanket from a reputable dealer to keep in your home – and learn how to use this equipment correctly.
  • Safely dispose of cigarettes, hot ash and coals from the fireplace or braai.
  • Do not use flammable liquids to start a braai or fire. It’s frighteningly easy to set yourself alight.
  • Clean the lint out of tumble driers regularly to prevent a build up. Avoid leaving the machine running while you are away from your home.

So what happens if, despite all your precautions, fire breaks out in your home? Do you know what to do? Or how to treat someone who has been badly burned or scalded?

What to do if fire breaks out in your home:
  • Turn off power source if the fire has been started by an appliance.
  • If you have a fire extinguisher or fire blanket, use it to put out a small fire.
  • If the room is on fire, cover your mouth and nose with a damp cloth to minimise smoke inhalation, and keep low while crawling to safety.
  • Do not open a closed door of a room suspected to be on fire.
  • Raise the alarm; alert anyone else in the building/neighbours and call the fire department if necessary.
  • Do not re-enter your home after a fire until it has been properly evaluated by the fire department.
Half of all home fires start in the kitchen

Deep frying chips and other foods can easily lead to disaster if you are not careful. Be safe by being vigilant:

  • Do not put too much oil in the pot and never, ever leave the pot unattended.
  • If an oil fire does start, do not try to put it out with water. Since oil and water don’t mix, this can cause a violent reaction, instantly spreading the fire to nearby kitchen cupboards and sending spatters of hot oil flying all over the kitchen and yourself.
  • Do not attempt to move the pot. Just turn off the heat source as quickly as possible and cover the pot with a metal lid or fire blanket to suffocate the flames. Leave in place until the pot has cooled completely.
How to treat burns
  • Avoid removing clothing as burnt material often sticks to the skin
  • Place the burned area under a running cold tap for 15 minutes to cool the area and prevent further damage.
  • Don’t put ice on the burn. Never, ever put butter or other lotions on a burn. Use a clean wet dressing or burn shield if you have some in your medicine cabinet. Major burns need to be seen by a doctor as soon as possible.
  • If you accidentally set yourself on fire, remember the drill: stop, drop and roll on the ground to put out the flames.
Elderly people and fires

If you are a care-giver for an elder, or have elderly parents who live alone, special care needs to be taken to keep them safe. Forgetfulness is sometimes part of ageing, as is diminished mobility, making it more difficult for elders to escape from a dangerous situation.
Financial constraints may also lead elders to ‘make do’ with old, unsafe appliances rather than buying new ones. Caring for older loved ones means helping them to create a safe environment, and checking on them regularly.

In our Tafta Homes, safety measures for elders take priority. This includes checking on residents, visiting those who are room-bound, and ensuring that appliances brought into their rooms are in good working order. Cooking is not permitted in rooms where residents are provided with meals.

We also conduct regular health and safety inspections as required by law, and are committed to implementing any improvements recommended by the experts. The latest upgrade to Tafta Lodge is a case in point. We are currently fundraising to have electrical wiring upgraded. Please click the link to assist with a donation.