When cold weather hits, its important to stay warm. But some of the things we do to keep warm and cosy, such as using heaters and electric blankets, may bring an increased risk of fire into the home.
Gas or electric powered heaters
Before turning on the heater, check that the wires have not been frayed or damaged. Keep portable heaters away from curtains and furniture and never use them for drying clothes. Always unplug portable heaters when you go out and go to bed.
Chimneys and open fires
An open fire in your home is a hazardous area. The variety of fuels that can be burned and the way that sparks and embers can find themselves thrown beyond the hearth means that home owners with open fires need to be especially vigilant. Whatever fuel you burn, it is important that the chimney is kept clean and you do not allow soot or ash to build up.
Avoid burning resinous woods as soot builds up quickly.
Do not overload the grate or appliance.
Do not bank fires too high and remember to let them burn down well before you retire to bed.
Check the floor and furnishings near the fire for hot sparks or embers before you go to bed.
Use a fire or spark guard to prevent accidental fires and make sure that it has the kite mark or conforms to a relevant British / European standard.
Do not place objects on or over the mantle-piece which may cause you to stand too close to the fire to reach or use them.
Inspect your chimney breast regularly – particularly in the roof space – to ensure that it is sound and that sparks or fumes cannot escape through cracks or broken bricks.
Electric blankets can help you keep warm during the cold nights, but fires can be devastating with approximately 440 injuries resulting from every 1000 fires started by an electric blanket in the UK. Therefore, there are fire safety issues to consider:
Check that the wires have not been frayed or damaged
Make sure that the blanket make has the kite mark or conforms to a relevant British / European standard.
Never use hot water bottles in the same bed as an electric blanket, even if the blanket is switched off.
Unplug blankets before you get into bed, unless they have a thermostat control for safe all-night use.
Don’t leave electric blankets folded as this damages the internal wiring. Store them flat or rolled up instead.
If a fire does breakout in your home, having a working smoke alarm fitted could save your life, as it will act as an early warning sign, allowing you to get out as soon as possible.
Before setting off to drive in the middle of the winter, you need to prepare and follow our simple guidelines below:
Let someone know where you are going and what time you hope to arrive, so that they can raise the alarm if you get into difficulties.
Plan alternative routes in case your main choice(s) becomes impassable.
Keep your fuel tank near to full to ensure that you do not run out.
Make sure you have a fully charged mobile phone, so you can call for help or alert someone if you’re delayed – it could be a long walk to a phone, if you don’t have a mobile phone.
If you don’t have an emergency kit in your vehicle, at least take extra warm clothes, boots and a torch. Consider keeping a couple of long-life energy bars in the glove box.
Clear your windows and mirrors completely of snow and ice before you set off (make sure the heater is blowing warm air before setting off – it will keep your windscreen clear.)
If you find yourself driving in snow or on icy or snow covered roads, adapt your driving to these conditions:
Reduce your speed. The chances of skidding are much greater and your stopping distance will increase massively.
Only travel at a speed at which you can stop within the distance you can see to be clear. Speed limits are the maximum in ideal conditions; in difficult conditions, they can often be too fast.
Avoid harsh braking and acceleration, or sharp steering.
Always reduce your speed smoothly and in plenty of time on slippery surfaces.
Slow down in plenty of time before bends and corners.
Braking on an icy or snow covered bend is extremely dangerous. The centrifugal force will continue to pull you outwards and the wheels will not grip very well. This could cause your vehicle to spin.
To brake on ice and snow without locking your wheels, get into a low gear earlier than normal, allow your speed to fall and use your brakes gently.
Increase the gap between you and the vehicle in front. You may need up to TEN TIMES the normal distance for braking.
Keep your vehicle well-ventilated. The car heater turned up full can quickly make you drowsy.
In snow, stop frequently to clean the windows, wheel arches, lights and number plates.
Visibility will probably be reduced, so use dipped headlights.
During wintry weather, road surfaces are often wet and/or covered in frost and ice or snow. But this does not occur uniformly. A road will often have isolated patches of frost or ice after most of the road has thawed – this commonly occurs under bridges.