As the cost of living soars, Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service (NIFRS) wants to ensure that people don't put themselves at additional fire risk to deal with rising costs.
There are a variety of factors that increase the risk of accidental house fires. NIFRS is concerned that the risk will be further amplified as people adapt the way they heat their home or use electrical products to deal with increased costs. NIFRS is urging the community to follow fire safety advice to stay safe from fire during this time.
This advice comes as part of North South Fire Safety Week 2022. Organised in partnership with the National Directorate for Fire and Emergency Management in the Republic of Ireland, the goal of Fire Safety Week is to promote fire safety in the home, to help prevent fires from happening.
Aidan Jennings, Assistant Chief Fire & Rescue Officer, explains:
"Many people are under significant pressure at the minute as the cost of living increases. Many households may be in fuel poverty and may put themselves at additional fire risk to deal with rising costs.
"As a Fire & Rescue Service we want the community to know that we are here to support you. We want to make sure you are doing all you can to stay safe during this difficult time. While we understand that affordability is a major issue for many, there are simple steps you can take to reduce the risk of fire in your home.
"In trying to reduce heating bills, please keep warm safely. If you're using portable heaters and electric blankets make sure they're in good working order. If you're planning to use a fire you haven't used in a while, make sure a suitably trained person services your chimney beforehand.
"Ensure you have working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms fitted. If you don't have working alarms this can impact your ability to notice a fire and escape quickly - especially at night. As a minimum you should have a working smoke alarm on each floor of your house, but consider additional alarms in the most used rooms such as living rooms and bedrooms.
"Don't leave cooking unattended; if you have to leave the kitchen, turn the cooker off and take the saucepans off the heat.
"We offer free Home Fire Safety Checks to those more at risk from fire. I would encourage those who are eligible to avail of this service this winter. Please check in with neighbours, family members and friends who are more at risk from fire and make sure they are doing all they can to stay safe during this time. If you think they could benefit from one of our free Home Fire Safety Checks, please refer them to us via our website.
"There are resources out there to help support you if you're struggling with rising costs. Charities such as National Energy Action (NEA) can provide help and advice. The Consumer Council recently launched a series of consumer information videos that provide energy advice and support to help households this winter. You can also visit Cost of Living page on nidirect website to help find what support is available to you during the winter months ahead.
"Fire prevention is at the heart of what we do at NIFRS. Please remember that we are here to support you during this difficult time.
Health Minister, Robin Swann, said:
"It is important that we all take steps to make our homes as safe as possible this winter and that we follow the advice from NIFRS about how to do this.
"As we head into colder weather, Fire Safety Week is a timely reminder for all of us to have chimneys swept, check that smoke and carbon monoxide alarms work and make sure that electric blankets and heaters are safe.
"NIFRS offers free home safety checks to those people more at risk from fire and I would encourage anyone who is eligible to go online and book a visit. Please also check with family and neighbours who might need some help in making sure their homes are as safe as possible."