Natural disasters and fire safety in the home
Natural disasters come in many shapes and sizes: from floods and tornadoes, to earthquakes and wildfires. Each kind of disaster poses its own kind of risk to the home, and we need to be vigilant in dealing with all of them, but here we’ll focus on the specific fire safety risks involved.
Compared to many other countries, of course, the risk of natural disasters in the UK is low. According to the World Risk Report, for example, Vanuatu, Tonga, and the Philippines are actually the countries at greatest risk. This doesn’t mean we should let our guard down, however – there are still a range of natural disasters and related fire risks that UK homeowners should be ready for.
Which disasters pose a risk?
A range of disasters can pose a fire risk in the home – from damaged electricals during storms, to damage caused by small earthquakes and even lightning strikes, fire can spring from a range of directions. It pays to be prepared.
With that in mind, what do you need to do?
Make sure your home is ready
Damaged or faulty electrical goods or wiring in the home are a common cause of fires, and these risks can be exacerbated by damage caused by natural disasters. It’s therefore recommended to regularly check all plugs and electrical appliances to ensure that they are in good condition and compliant with fire safety standards. Check that plug sockets and extension leads are not overloaded, and make sure appliances such as refrigerators have adequate ventilation space.
It may sound obvious, but make sure relevant professionals carry out a regular fire risk assessment of your home, and ensure that you have all the other basics covered. Up-to-date smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors, fire extinguishers, and a clear fire escape plan (rehearsed with everyone in your household) are absolute musts to ensure that your home is as prepared as possible in the event of any fire, whatever the cause.
As well as the general natural disasters already mentioned, wildfires are (of course) a clear fire risk to homes. There are specific measures that can be taken, however, to minimise this risk.
We’re used to hearing about wildfires in countries such as the US and Australia – with the 2019/20 Australian bushfires in particular dominating the news cycle and causing unprecedented damage. Raging across 72,000 square miles, the fires destroyed almost 3,000 homes and killed more than a billion animals – emphasising the serious threat wildfires pose to humans, animals, and the environment as a whole.
Although the UK does not see wildfires on such a cataclysmic scale, it’s far from immune to them. In fact, recent research shows that wildfires in the UK have become more common in recent years.
But what does this mean for your home? If you live in an area at risk from wildfire, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has created guidelines on ways that you can minimise the risk by controlling the Home Ignition Zone (HIZ). The recommendations include removing flammable materials from wall exteriors, clearing gutters of dead leaves and other debris, keeping lawns no higher than four inches, and pruning trees to ensure there is adequate space between branches to thwart the spread of fire.
If you’re at all concerned about wildfires in your area, the NFPA guidelines are well worth reading in full.
Fire safety is always a crucially important issue, and in times of natural disaster it becomes an even more pressing consideration. Wildfires are increasing in frequency here in the UK, and pose a direct risk to properties if the right preparations aren’t taken. Other forms of natural disasters also pose a general fire risk, due to the related damage they can cause. Although the overall risk of natural disasters remains small in the UK, it always pays to be prepared.
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