West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service do a terrific job. Nowadays they respond to more emergency calls for road traffic collisions than fires, but there are still regular call outs for fires in the home and it’s a fire that started in a kitchen that I wanted to talk to you about. An elderly resident was in the kitchen when her cardigan caught fire with fire tragic results. She was rushed to Hospital to be treated for 44% burns to her upper body; very sadly she died the following day.
Recently an elderly resident, same profile as described earlier, recounted to me that she was preparing a stir fry for her supper, and when she added some ingredients flames shot up from the frying pan, frightened she picked up the frying pan opened the back door and put it outside. She was very lucky if she had slipped or fallen or indeed if there had been a blast of wind blowing in when she opened the door there could have been a very nasty incident.
Regrettably, these are not unique cases. We have had similar incidents over the last couple of years involving elderly people and kitchen fires. In most cases the person was living alone and was not known to our Social Services. Elderly people often spend a lot of their time in the kitchen with some seeing it as the warmest place in the home, but the naked flame from a gas cooker or a hot ring on an electric cooker can be potentially very dangerous. As we get older our reactions can get slower and we can get frightened easily. Sometimes this makes us react in a way that can cause more harm. Since raising this matter at the County Council a couple of Councillors have mentioned near incidents with their close relatives so this is not uncommon.
The Fire Service now does a considerable amount of preventative work and over the last decade their home fire safety visits have been instrumental in reducing the number of people losing their lives in house fires. However, often those elderly residents most needing assistance can be the hardest to identify and reach. ‘Who Cares’ is our Fire Service’s latest home fire safety campaign aimed at protecting our most vulnerable residents.
That’s why I am blogging and campaigning on this issue. If you know of an elderly resident living on their own or indeed have a parent or relative who does please recommend, or better still, arrange a free Home Fire Safety Check for them . A conversation around kitchen safety and the right kind of smoke detection could save a life. You can either call free on 0800 328 6487 or visit www.westsussex.gov.uk/fire
Here are simple steps to a safer home – a useful reminder for us all.
5 simple steps to a safer home:
- Working smoke alarms save lives! Install one on each level of your home and test them on a weekly basis
- Stand by your pan! More than half the fires attended by the fire service start in the kitchen so take extra care when cooking
- Smoking is the leading cause of fatal fires. Extinguish cigarettes carefully and never smoke in bed
- Unplug appliances when not in use – leaving electrical appliances on overnight or when you are out increases the risk of fire
- Don’t put anything on heaters or use them to dry clothes. Need advice about paying fuel bills or keeping warm safely? Call Home Heat Helpline FREE on 0800 336699
In the event of a fire in the home get out, stay out and call 999
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