NORTHERN Ireland Fire & Rescue Service (NIFRS) is encouraging people to be fire safe this Christmas and to take simple steps to be winter ready for the difficulties and the wide range of emergencies that this time of year can bring.
The weather over the Christmas period (20 December 2011 – 6 January 2012) last year was much milder than the year before and during this time Fire Crews responded to over 1,000 emergency incidents right across Northern Ireland, including road traffic collisions, special service calls and house fires. This represented a 50% decrease in incidents attended in the Christmas period the previous year. Nonetheless, NIFRS is encouraging people not to be complacent and to be prepared as severe winter weather can strike quickly.
Jim Murphy, Group Commander, Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service said: “During severe and prolonged weather periods and in particular over Christmas time people remain indoors. Things that can create fire hazards are used more often in the home; items such as candles, fairy tree lights, portable heaters and fires that have not been lit for some time. Such additional hazards resulted in Firefighters attending 61 accidental house fires and 144 chimney fires during the Christmas period alone last year.
“Sometimes people can become complacent about their fire safety during the festivities and I am urging everyone to keep themselves and their families safe by being extra vigilant to avoid fires in their homes. Ensure you have a bed time routine, check that your smoke alarms are working and if you have visitors over the Christmas period ensure that they are aware of your fire escape plan.
“I also want to reassure the public that their Fire & Rescue Service is well prepared and well rehearsed in terms of our contingency planning in readiness for severe weather conditions that we may face over the next few weeks. This is to ensure that we can maintain our response to emergencies through heavy snow, ice, freezing temperatures, thaw and flooding etc and continue in the work that we do in protecting our community.
“What I would ask however is that everyone in Northern Ireland also thinks about their own personal preparedness for the challenges that severe weather may bring. This is essentially helping us to help you. We only need to look back at the 2010-11 Christmas period to see the significant impact that prolonged periods of severe weather can have on the daily lives of individuals and communities.
“During periods of extreme winter weather we receive higher volumes of calls for emergency assistance and inevitably the types of incidents Firefighters are faced with become more challenging and indeed even accessing those in need during emergency situations becomes more difficult. It is important for the public to understand what we can and what we cannot respond to. This allows us to help those in real emergency situations. For example; for burst pipes outside your home call NI Water on 0845 744 0088 and for burst pipes in your home the best advice is to call a plumber or your landlord.
“I would also appeal to drivers to take extra care while driving as winter weather heightens the dangers on our roads. During severe weather only make essential journeys.
“We want people to enjoy themselves and be safe over the coming weeks. If everyone takes the simple, but sensible steps by preparing for winter conditions and by making sure they are following the safety advice then they can help us as a Fire & Rescue Service and help themselves to have a happy and safe Christmas.”
Winter Weather Advice:
Burst & Frozen Pipes – The following can help prevent burst or frozen pipes:
know where the internal stop/tap valve is (usually under the kitchen sink) and how to turn it off
keep the home as warm as possible even if you are out
lag pipes in exposed or draughty places
leave the trap door to the roofspace open to let warm air flow in during extreme weather conditions when there is the chance that un-lagged water tanks and pipes could freeze
see that taps are turned off properly, especially last thing at night
For burst pipes inside the home call a plumber or landlord. The Scottish and Northern Ireland Plumbing Employers Federation contact number is 0131 556 0600
Housing Executive Tenants should phone 0344 892 0901
For problems with frozen or burst pipes outside your property contact Northern Ireland Water on 0845 744 0088
NI Direct website (www.nidirect.gov.uk) has detailed advice in relation to frozen or burst pipes and flooding
Flooding – To report flooding phone the NI Flooding Helpline on 0300 2000 100 which is open 24/7 and a member of staff will take your details and contact the appropriate agency on your behalf.
Gas Supplies – If you smell gas call the NI Gas Emergency Centre on 0800 002 001. If you are affected by flooding and water enters your home:
Turn off the gas supply at the meter
Turn off all gas appliances and don’t use any gas appliances until your system has been inspected by a Gas Safe Registered Engineer
For rental properties, contact your landlord as soon as possible.
Power Cuts – Report power cuts to Power NI on 08457 643 643. If flood water enters your home do not operate electrical switches or appliances, nor touch electrical fittings such as sockets and meters.
Christmas Fire Safety Advice:
Check your Christmas tree lights conform to the British Standard. Don’t use lights with worn or frayed cables. Turn off lights at night or when you are leaving the house.
Never place candles near your Christmas tree or furnishings. Don’t leave them burning unattended.
Make sure your family and guests staying for the festive period know what to do in an emergency. Make a fire escape plan.
Decorations can burn easily – don’t attach them to lights or heaters
Never overload electrical sockets.
Celebrate Christmas and New Year safely. The risk of accidents is greater after alcohol is consumed.
Most fires start in the kitchen – never leave a cooker unattended
Make sure cigarettes are completely extinguished before going to bed
Test your smoke alarm every week and make sure to replace the battery or the smoke alarm if it is not working
Keep candles, lighters and matches out of the reach of children
Take the time to check on elderly relatives and neighbours this Christmas – make sure they are fire safe.
You can find all the winter weather preparedness tips and advice on www.nidirect.gov.uk.