Although here in Spain most homes are built of reinforced concrete rather than timber, the fire loading i.e. the amount of combustible materials in the home may cause a dangerous situation especially during the night when everyone is sleep.
The main origins of fire in Spain and probably in the world by far are the overheating of the electrical layout, the misuse of stoves or smoking in bed are the main causes of domestic fires.
A few weeks ago, a mother and her two children were killed by a house fire. Three more deaths that go to swell the list of deceased by domestic fires that every year are at least a hundred. Many of these fires could have been avoided. How? In this article we suggest some tips, facilitated by researching advice given by fire departments, which I think can be very useful.
Some are pretty straight forward: have a good ventilation, do not overload the electrical network and never smoke in bed.
The latest study on fire victims in Spain, prepared by Mapfre (A major insurance company in Spain) and the Professional Firefighters Technicians Association (APTB), indicates that in 2017 there were 169 fire deaths, almost 80% in buildings. The causes of these deaths are having breathed the gases generated in the fire, burns, multi-organ failure and trauma. And those of the fires? Most are due to electrical causes, followed by carelessness with heat producing appliances, fires that can be easily avoided by paying more attention and having fire detectors and fire extinguishers.
1. Beware of overloading the electrical network!
The living room is the room in which the greatest number of fires originates, with 39.5% of the fatalities, according to the mentioned studies. No wonder, because this room accumulates the largest number of plugs, power strips… which often cause overheating of the network or, if they are in poor condition, a short circuit. And precisely the fires for electrical causes are 25.6% of the total and those that produce the highest number of deaths.
The fires related to electrical causes are also due to the misuse of the devices or to that they are improperly installed. Therefore, you should not connect several devices in a single multiple socket and you have to keep the electrical installation in good condition. If you have to try to disperse the electrical equipment with larger power demand in different parts of the room.
Another advice! Never use appliances in poor condition (stoves, stoves, refrigerators, etc.), do not handle them or try to repair them if you do not know how to do it.
2. It uses braziers, stoves… and candles!
Domestic appliances that produce heat, such as stoves, braziers or fireplaces, are behind 21.3% of the deaths that originate in home fires. You must keep them away (at least one meter) of objects that can burn, such as sofas, curtains, clothes.
Candles can also be very dangerous, I strongly recommend never leaving them on, if you are not present, place them inflammable firm base supports and with the capacity to contain the wax that falls off. In addition, you have to be careful when turning them on if you wear very long hair, baggy clothes or scarves and keep them away from children and pets.
3. Don’t smoke in the house, and if you do…. never smoke in bed!!
The second focus where more fires are produced at home is the bedroom (34.2%). Before going to bed you must make sure that there are no cigarettes lit, or in the ashtray (before emptying it, check that the contents are well turned off and the ashtray cold). Of course, you never have to smoke in bed, or light a cigarette if you are very tired or sleepy.
4. If the pan ignites, do not pour water
14.5% of those killed by home fires are registered in the kitchen, according to the Mapfre study. Experts consider it important that the general population is informed about the dangers of the kitchen (although its victims decrease every year), why these fires occur and how to act if they occur.
For cooking, they recommend wearing clothes with narrow sleeves. Also, you should never fill a pan more than a third, or you can leave it unattended when it is on fire. Also, do not put food in the pan, if the oil is too hot (giving off a lot of smoke). If you catch fire in a pan, you should know that you should never pour water on it, but cover it with a lid bigger than it and do not move it: you could spill burning oil and spread the fire.
5. Install ventilation grilles
Rooms in which kitchens, heaters or gas stoves have to be ventilated with vents. If you decide to close the terrace or the drying rack to which you would give the ventilation of the kitchen, you must place vents in them. In the case of boilers, In addition to ventilation grilles, you need a duct (chimney) to evacuate the combustion gases to the outside.
6. Do not leave children alone at home
Obvious advice but never leave small children alone at home. If you have to leave, even just a moment, you should take them with you. You should also do it, if it is impossible to leave them in the care of someone. Of course, children have to be away from candles, matches, cigarettes, plugs, stoves or chimneys.
Do you have an extinguisher or a smoke detector? They can save your life!
The smoke detector is a great ally. Easy to install, can give you those precious minutes that can save you and your family. Experts recommend checking each month the detector by pressing the button, checking that it is heard in all rooms of the house (for deaf there are detectors with intermittent light alarm). If the detector emits an intermittent beep, the batteries must be replaced.
In another occasion we will do an article on firefighting equipment that can be obtained in Spain at reasonable prices. Having a fire extinguisher at home is also very useful, although it is only valid for the beginning of the fire and it is essential to always call firemen. Its use is not complicated. After removing the extinguisher ring, you should stand about three meters from the fire, directing the powder to the base of the flame. If the fire is vertical, it is always switched off from the bottom up, and then you must leave without losing sight of the focus, even if you have turned it off.