Stay safe in the kitchen

kitchenCooking causes more accidental fires and associated casualties in the home than anything else. The 2011-12 fire statistics report that cooking fires make up half of all accidental fires in the home in England – 15,509 out of 30,709 (50.5%). Fires from cooking appliances also account for over half of all non-fatal accidental dwelling fire casualties – 3,325 out of 6,335 (52.4%).

Fire Kills, the UK Government’s fire safety campaign, works with the fire services around the country on raising awarenessand each month highlights particular issues. In February it is ‘Cooking’

Here is some of the advice offered:

•  Avoid leaving children in the kitchen alone when cooking on the hob.  Keep matches and saucepan handles out of their reach to keep them safe.
•  Make sure saucepan handles don’t stick out – so they don’t get knocked off the stove.
•  Take care if wearing loose clothing – this can easily catch fire.
•  Keep tea towels and cloths away from the cooker and hob.
•  Double check the cooker is off when cooking is finished..
•  If the kitchen is unoccupied whilst cooking, take pans off the heat or turn the heat right down to avoid risk.
•  Take care when cooking with hot oil – it sets alight easily.
•  Make sure food is dry before putting it in hot oil so it doesn’t splash.
•  If the oil starts to smoke – it’s too hot.  Turn off the heat and leave it to cool.
•  Use a thermostat controlled electric deep fat fryer – they can’t overheat.
•  Check toasters are clean and placed away from curtains and kitchen rolls.
•  Keep the oven, hob and grill clean and in good working order.  A build up of fat and grease can easily lead to a fire.

Smoke alarms are too sensitive to install in the kitchen so instead heat alarms are recommended. These devices are designed to respond when the convected thermal energy of a fire increases the temperature of a heat sensitive element. Heat alarms are used in rooms where smoke or mist are frequently parts of the normal atmosphere, such as kitchens or garages, and consequently ionisation or optical smoke detectors would not be effective. To maximise protection heat alarms should be interconnected with smoke alarms in the property.

If a pan fire starts the advice is to, if safe to do so, turn off the heat, get out and call the emergency services. NEVER try and put it out with water.

The only types of fire extinguishers that can be used on deep fat fryer fires are wet chemical extinguishers or ‘dry’ water mist extinguishers.

‘Dry’ water mist extinguishers are relatively new on the market and have a unique ‘supersonic nozzle’ which creates a microscopic mist curtain, reducing the oxygen content and creating a highly effective cooling blanket on the burning material. There are no chemicals involved so any food in the vicinity will not be harmed.

Have you spotted a fire safety hazard?

When you’re out and about do you ever spot a potential hazard? A fire door propped open with a fire extinguisher? A blocked fire exit? An overloaded electrical socket?

Why not take a photograph and send it to

This is a website that has been set up to collect images of potential fire risks and potential dangers. It aims to encourage people to consider what measures they might take to make their homes or businesses safer.

The site doesn’t ask you to say where the picture was taken, it’s not about naming and shaming, just raising awareness. Each image is rated for how dangerous it is and whether it breaks the law. It also assesses how much it would cost to put right. Usually nothing.

Take a look. What you see might just make you think.

Getting ready for winter

The Met Office has set up a website entitled ‘Getting Ready for Winter’ offering advice and guidance covering staying warm and well, travel, protecting the home and helping in the community.

Its safety advice for the home offers the following guidelines:

  • Make sure you have a smoke alarm on every floor of your house.
  • People with open fires should ensure their chimneys are swept. Always use a fireguard and make sure the fire is out properly when you leave or go to bed.
  • Portable heaters must be kept away from curtains and furniture and shouldn’t be used for drying clothes. Always unplug electric heaters before going to bed.
  • If you have an electric blanket do not use a hot water bottle even if the blanket is switched off. Unplug blanket before going to bed, unless they have a thermostatic control and are designed to be left on all night.
  • Don’t leave lit candles unattended. They should be secured in a proper holder away from materials that could catch fire such as curtains.
  • Take time to check on older relatives and neighbours, Make sure they are warm and safe this winter and have smoke alarms fitted.

* The Met Office is the UK’s National Weather Service. It employs more than 1,800 people at 60 locations throughout the world, and is recognised as one of the world’s most accurate forecasters, using more than 10 million weather observations a day, It is now working with the NHS to provide information on how the weather affects hospital admissions and helping them manage workloads. It is also helping people with certain medical conditions, advising them when the weather could affect their health, helping them to stay healthy and out of hospital.

Taking care with candles

As the evenings get colder and darker many people like to make their homes more cosy in the evenings by lighting a few candles.
But, in the UK, there are over 150 serious fires each year that are caused by candles.

To make sure that you are not a victim of a candle fire make sure you adhere to the following advice:

– Never leave burning candles unattended. Put burning candles out when you leave the room, and make sure they’re completely out at night.

– Always place your candles/tea lights in a suitable fire resistant candleholder.

– Always put the candleholder on a heat resistant surface like a ceramic plate (tea lights can melt plastic surfaces such as the top of a television or side of a bath).

– Place candles carefully. Make sure they are on a stable surface, out of reach of pets and children, and keep them away from flammable objects like curtains, furniture, bedding and books.

– Don’t move candles once they have been lit.

– Burn candles in a well ventilated room, out of draughts, vents or air currents. This will help prevent rapid or uneven burning, soot and dripping.

– Always leave at least four inches (10cm) between burning candles/tea lights and never place them under shelves or other enclosed spaces. Make sure there’s at least three feet (one metre) between a candle and any surface above it.

– It is recommended that a candle ‘snuffer’ or a metal spoon be used to put the candle/tea light out.

And make sure that you are protected by a smoke alarm and have a fire extinguisher in the house should items in the house catch fire.

Have you got a carbon monoxide alarm?

As winter approaches heating systems and appliances are being fired up all over the country.  It’s time to consider whether you are taking all the necessary precautions against carbon monoxide poisoning.

Around 50 people a year die from the effects of carbon monoxide and many more are hospitalised. By taking the right precautions most of these could be avoided.

Firstly, we would urge people to have their gas boilers and any other fuel burning appliances regularly serviced and chimneys swept. Then get a carbon monoxide alarm installed. This is important even if you have carried out all the necessary maintenance.  There even have been incidences where poisonings have occurred when the deadly gas has seeped in from an adjoining property.

As we do our best to keep our energy bills down homes have much better insulation and draught protection. Remember though that while this keeps the cold out it will also keep any deadly fumes in.

Fitting a CO alarm will give you the peace of mind that you and your family will be safe this winter. Just ensure that you follow the instructions, test it in line with the instructions and make sure you replace the battery when required.

Chimney Fire Safety Week September 9-16

The aim of Chimney Fire Safety Week is to raise awareness of the importance of ensuring that chimneys are swept regularly and are clean and safe for use – fuel quality is also an important factor in the prevention of chimney fires.

The Fire Kills campaign has worked closely with HETAS, the NationaL Association of Chimney Sweeps and the Institute of Chimney Sweeps to drum up interest in this awareness week.

The key messages are:

• Ensure your chimney is swept regularly

• Chimneys should be swept according to the type of fuel used:

  1. Smokeless fuels – at least once a year
  2. Bitumous coal – at least twice a year
  3. Wood – quarterly when in use
  4. Oil – once a year
  5. Gas – once a year (Any work on gas appliances requires a Gas Safe registered installer/engineer)

• Keep chimneys and flues clean and well maintained

• Be careful when using open fires to keep warm. Make sure you always use a fire guard to protect against flying sparks from hot embers

• Ensure the fire is extinguished before going to bed or leaving the house

• Ensure good quality fuel is used

• Never interrupt the air supply by blocking air vents or air bricks

• Fit a smoke alarm

• Fit a carbon monoxide alarm – if there is a blockage anywhere in the chimney then the carbon monoxide generated by burning fuel will not escape properly. This gas is deadly.

For further information on chimney safety, you can visit the association websites – /

Fireproof boxes: a simple precaution

Storing important documents and computer data in a fireproof box or chest ensures peace of mind should the worst happen and your home or office premises experience a blaze. Some of these units also offer water resistance, giving additional protection against sprinklers, hoses and even total immersion through flooding.

The main criterion for choosing a fireproof box must be the nature of the material to be stored inside it. Test criteria and fire rating classifications are focused on three main categories of information capture and presentation.

Paper: for example, passports, certificates, insurance policies, deeds, legal documents and cash (notes).

Digital media: for example, USB / memory sticks, DVDs, CDs, digital cameras, iPods, MP3 players and external hard drives.

Data media: for example, computer back-up tapes, computer diskettes (floppy disks), and traditional internal hard drives. Cellulose based materials such as film, negatives, transparencies and microfiche are almost as vulnerable to the hazards of a blaze as data media so should be stored in a fireproof box designed to protect this type of computer data.

Each type of media starts to degrade at a different temperature, as follows:

Paper:              177 °C / 350 °F

Digital:            120 °C / 248 °F

Film:                66 °C / 150 °F

Data:               52 °C / 125 °F

Although fireproof boxes are mainly designed to accommodate paper, some offer protection for digital media as well, while others have a data protection insert that means mixed media can be safely stored for the specified protected length of time. This is usually 30 or 60 minutes, depending on the test criteria of a particular model.

A fireproof box protects its contents by keeping the storage compartment(s) below the critical temperature level in the heat of a blaze, which is typically around 450 °C but can be much higher, depending on the nature of the materials that are combusting. The construction of the box is double walled, the cavity being filled with a special, heat-absorbing composite. Intumescent seals around the inside of the lid, which swell to many times their original size in a fire situation, ensure that the box is sealed tight shut and thus prevent the ingress of smoke and hot gases.

Portable fireproof boxes have a carry handle and are usually secured by keylocks, with two keys supplied as standard. Most manufacturers offer a lifetime after-fire replacement guarantee as well as the usual limited warranty.

What is a fire extinguisher?

As the name would suggest, a fire extinguisher is an appliance for putting out a blaze. It is a portable device, designed to assist in the safe evacuation of people from a building in a fire situation. It can be used to tackle a small fire in its early stages but the primary issue in a fire emergency is to ensure that the escape route remains open until everyone has reached a place of safety outside the building.

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order (RRFSO) 2005 charges the responsible person(s) in control of non-domestic premises with the safety of everyone, whether employed in or visiting the building. This duty of care includes ensuring that the premises are provided with “appropriate fire fighting” equipment and that “any non-automatic fire-fighting equipment so provided is easily accessible, simple to use and indicated by signs”. A fire extinguisher is one such piece of non-automatic fire fighting equipment.

As there are different types of fires, there are different types of fire extinguisher. Using the wrong type of fire extinguisher on a blaze could make the situation much worse.

The HM Government entry level guide to interpreting the RRFSO, “A short guide to making your premises safe from fire” (June 2006), notes the four main types of portable fire extinguishers (Water, Powder, Foam and Carbon Dioxide/CO2) that are suited to tackling the different types of fire most likely to occur in non-domestic premises. It should be noted, however, that this guide does not mention the Wet Chemical extinguisher, as this is specifically designed to tackle fires involving hot fats or oils in cooking: for example, deep fat fryer fires in catering facilities.

In respect of the number of fire extinguishers that should be provided, the guide indicates there should be a minimum of one for every 200m2 of floor space, with at least one extinguisher on each floor of the premises.


What is a fire?

In order to understand the need for fire extinguishers, it is helpful to consider what a fire actually is. Three elements are required for any fire to start or be sustained:

  • Fuel (e.g. combustible solids or liquids)
  • Heat (e.g. a naked flame or electrical spark)
  • Oxygen (e.g. air supply)

Together, these elements are known as ‘the fire triangle’. If any one of these elements is missing or removed, a fire will not be able to start or, if already underway, continue to burn.

A fire extinguisher is designed to remove the heat and/or oxygen from the fire triangle: for example, by smothering the flames with a blanket of foam or powder.


What is in a fire extinguisher?

The contents of a fire extinguisher are designed to tackle a particular type of fire.

As such, there are five main types of extinguisher. Each has a red body, with a colour coded label to indicate its contents:

  • Water/Water with additive/Dry water mist (red label)
  • Powder (blue label)
  • Foam (cream label)
  • Carbon Dioxide / CO2 (black label)
  • Wet chemical (yellow label)

Water extinguishers deliver a stream of water under pressure, to dissipate the heat energy of fires through evaporation and quickly penetrate burning solid materials such as wood, paper and textiles. Water with additive extinguishers have a superior fire extinguisher rating; while still being environmentally friendly, they are safe if accidentally used on electrical equipment. Dry water mist extinguishers deliver microscopic ‘dry’ droplets of water which, as they do not sink into the burning liquid, are safe for use on fires involving liquid fats or oils, for example in deep fat fryers, found in industrial kitchens, as well as solid materials.

Powder extinguishers smother a fire by covering it in a blanket of dry powder. They do carry a risk of inhalation, however, so should not be used in confined spaces. They can be used on flammable liquid and flammable gas fires as well as solids. Specialist dry chemical powder extinguishers are required for fires involving flammable metals such as aluminium, magnesium and potassium.

Foam extinguishers create a blanket between the burning fuel and oxygen in the air; they are suitable for use on fires involving solid materials such as wood, paper, textiles, etc, and liquid flammables, such as petrol, paints and solvents.

CO2 extinguishers are suitable for use on flammable liquids and fires involving electrical equipment. They smother the fire by delivering a stream of carbon dioxide under pressure, to cut the supply of oxygen to the fire.

Wet chemical extinguishers are designed to fight fires involving combustible cooking oils and fats; a fire blanket is also recommended for such emergencies. Both smother a fire by cutting off its oxygen supply. It should be remembered that hot oil can reignite, so after stopping the blaze the oil should be left to cool in its container, e.g. deep fat fryer, with the heat source isolated.

N.B. Halon extinguishers are no longer included in the list as new halon production is not permitted in the UK.


Which fire extinguisher should I use?

Provided the fire is still small and can be reasonably fought with a fire extinguisher, the type to use will be dictated by the nature of the fire. There are five main types of fire, classified according to the fuel element:

  • Class A (solid materials: e.g. wood, textiles, paper, rubber)
  • Class B (liquids: e.g. petrol, oil, solvents, paints)
  • Class C (gases: e.g. natural gas, butane, propane)
  • Class D (metals or powdered metals: e.g. sodium, potassium)
  • Class F (cooking media: e.g. fat, oils)

The appropriate fire extinguisher to use in each case is as follows:

  • Class A – Water/Dry Water Mist, Foam
  • Class B – Powder, Foam, CO2
  • Class C – Powder
  • Class D – Powder
  • Class F – Dry Water Mist, Wet Chemical + Fire Blanket

Electrical fires are not considered to be a class on their own, as they feed on a heat supply (electricity) that should be isolated before the fire is fought. Once the supply has been cut, the flames can be tackled with an extinguisher according to the fuel that is burning, provided that the fire is still small.

If it is not possible to cut the electricity supply, it is important that a non-electricity conducting extinguishing agent is used. This can be a CO2 , foam or even a DRY water mist extinguisher. Make sure that the extinguisher has passed the 35kV dielectrical test. A powder extinguisher is also suitable for electrical fires but leaves a residue that can cause further damage to the electric equipment and rest of building. Particularly sensitive in this regard are historic buildings, churches and any environments with a concentration of electronic equipment.

Keeping your home and family safe from fire

Domestic fires can happen incredibly quickly and have a very serious effect on your life. Therefore, it is absolutely essential that everyone in your family is acutely aware of the aware of dangers of fire and knows how to prevent and, if need be, escape from a fire.

Thankfully, installing basic safety measures in your home and using common sense can help you and your family to stay safe, even in the event of a fire.

Fire prevention
As with many other aspects of life, prevention is always preferable to cure. Happily, there are several things you can do to help prevent a fire in your home. First and foremost, you should get heat or smoke alarms installed, especially in your kitchen and bedrooms. You should also make sure that you have suitable fire extinguishers at hand and that everyone in your family knows how to use them. If you have small children in your home, keep items like matches and lighters well out of the reach of their curious hands.

Fire awareness
You must encourage your family to be aware of the potential fire dangers that can exist in your home. For example, you should: never overload a mains outlet or use more than one multi-plug in a socket. Make sure panhandles are facing inward when on the hob so that they do not get knocked over. Always be super-cautious with flammable liquids and make sure they remain locked up somewhere far away from your children. Keep a look out for electrical wires that have been worn out and immediately replace any that you may find. Obviously, this list is far from exhaustive – however, the important thing is to ensure you and your family are always vigilantly aware of the potential fire dangers that may occur in your home.

Fire evacuation
The most important thing to remember if you find yourself caught in a fire is not to panic. If the fire is relatively small then try to put it out with a suitable extinguisher. If the fire is large (or is spreading); call 999, get down low and use your family’s exit plan to try and get outside. If you can, cover your face with a cloth or towel so that you don’t breath in too much smoke. If you encounter a hot doorknob – do not open the door. A hot doorknob usually indicates that fire is present on the other side of the door. Instead, move away from the door and find an alternative way to exit the house.

By employing suitably preventative measures, remaining vigilantly aware and knowing exactly what to do in an emergency, you can help to ensure your family will remain as safe from the risk of fire as it is possible to be.

Explore our pages further to find out more and view our domestic fire safety products in greater detai

Knowing the Difference between Foam and Powder Fire Extinguishers

Most people know the basics about fire extinguishers. For instance many people know that water-based extinguishers are best used for putting out fires involving solid combustibles like wood, paper and fabric and shouldn’t be utilised anywhere near electrics (unless they contain an additive). Similarly, most people also know that Carbon Dioxide extinguishers can be used to great effect on electrics as well as petrol, oil and solvents.

However, the area where people tend to get confused is with foam and powder extinguishers.

Hopefully, this brief outline of the various attributes and applications of foam and power extinguishers will help to clear up any confusion.

Foam extinguishers
Foam extinguishers are good to have in homes and offices as they are suitable for use on class A solid combustible fires (wood, paper, upholstery) and class B flammable liquid fires (petrol, liquefying plastic, paints). As a rule, foam extinguishers are not to be used on chip pan fires or gas fires.

These extinguishers work by forming a blanket of foam on the burning material, thereby starving a fire of fuel (oxygen). Indeed, the dispersed foam also penetrates deep into burning materials so that it can extinguish deep rooted embers. In addition, the water content of the foam evaporates in the heat and cools the fire down to prevent any risk of re-ignition.

Although dispersed foam presents no immediate risk regarding inhalation, it should be cleaned up as swiftly as possible after dispersal, as the AFFF foams are carcinogenic. Thankfully, the jets on foam extinguishers are able to target relatively small areas therefore most areas are usually quite easy to clean up after dispersal.

Powder extinguishers
Powder extinguishers are the most versatile extinguishers available. Indeed, as well as being suitable for use on class A and B class fires, powder extinguishers can also be used on class C fires (caused by combustion of gasses such as natural gas, propane, hydrogen) and on live electrical equipment. This versatility makes powder extinguishers well-suited to broad range of environments such as workshops, cars, boats and even some homes.

Powder fire extinguishers are more powerful than foam extinguishers; therefore, they are typically smaller than their foam counterparts. Instead of soaking into a burning material, however, powder extinguishers work by forming a crust-like blanket which is able to effectively starve a fire of fuel.

Dispersed powder can be inhaled and therefore care must be taken when it is sprayed. In addition, these types of extinguishers tend to leave a lot of residue behind so there is sometimes a degree of hesitation before powder extinguishers are used within buildings.