COVID-19: Does lockdown pose a greater fire safety risk?
With the COVID-19 pandemic on everyone’s minds at the moment, homeowners may be forgiven if fire safety has slipped down the pecking order of their concerns. But with people spending more time at home, fire safety is arguably more important as it has ever been before. Here we explore why.
With restaurants shut during lockdown, millions of people are now cooking at home for themselves more often. With cooking appliances being used at a greater rate than before, there is naturally a risk of more frequent fires, too.
Although cooking is safe if the right precautions are taken, constant vigilance should always be maintained – especially with the possible distraction of children being at home from school. It sounds obvious, but don’t get distracted while cooking – make sure any bubbling saucepans or hot surfaces are watched at all times, and that children stay out of harm’s way.
With many people spending more time at home, it’s also a good opportunity to double-check that appliances such as ovens, fridges, and microwaves are properly registered and in good condition, too.
Similarly, with more people at home than ever before, the risk of smoking-related fires is also increased. People may be more tempted to smoke indoors, especially if they don’t have a garden. It goes without saying that this represents a big fire safety risk. Smoking should always be done outdoors, with any cigarette butts safely stored in an ashtray.
Candles and incense
Whether candles are being lit for a cosy evening in, or incense is being used throughout the day to create a pleasant working from home environment, the same argument applies: with people spending more time at home, candles and incense will be used more often, and this brings an additional fire risk.
Naked flames always need to be watched carefully, kept away from any flammable materials, and safely snuffed out before you go to bed.
In a similar vein, electrical sockets are receiving more punishment during lockdown than they usually do. Instead of only using electrical sockets for a few hours in the evening and morning, millions of people are now using sockets throughout the day as they work from home. Work laptops, lights, kitchen appliances – all are seeing increased levels of use, alongside televisions and iPads to entertain and educate children throughout the day.
Again, this increased use comes with increased risk – sockets and extension leads should not be overloaded. Check each plug for signs of wear and tear, and replace as required.
What about the positives?
It may sound strange, but lockdown could actually have a positive effect on people’s fire safety knowledge.
People are spending more time online, and social media platforms can be a surprisingly useful fire safety tool. Many fire services have active and engaged Twitter presences, for example, and some of them are downright hilarious. This humour does not detract from the seriousness of their job, however. If anything, it helps to keep people engaged, and makes them more likely to see the fire safety posts that these accounts also share. As Direct Line argues, Instagram’s Stories feature is another powerful way to share what’s going on behind the scenes – providing a much-needed human element.
Whatever social media platform they may use, any way that fire professionals can increase awareness and engagement of their vital work during this time will have a positive impact on fire safety. With fire and rescue personnel taking on a wide range of additional duties during the COVID-19 emergency, they are in the public eye more than ever before – helping people to see how selfless and important these professionals are, even in normal times.
The knowledge that emergency services are particularly stretched at the moment will hopefully make people more mindful of their own fire safety responsibilities at home, and take the necessary precautions.
With millions of people spending more time at home, it’s clear that fire risks are unavoidably elevated in a number of areas. The more time people are at home, using electrical appliances and engaging in other day-to-day behaviours that come with a small but natural fire risk, the more the overall fire safety risk is elevated. But if the right precautions are taken and the necessary vigilance maintained, there’s no need to add extra pressure to fire services at this difficult time.
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