1 EAGLETON NOTES: Fire Safety

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Saturday, 17 June 2017

Fire Safety

The terrible fire at Grenfell Tower affected me deeply in the same way that it has doubtless affected anyone who followed it during that night and in the days since. I've always been a bit obsessive over fire safety. During the war our Dad was a fireman by night on the Liverpool Docks which were a prime target for enemy bombers. When we were young Dad taught us quite a lot about fire safety. So I've always had fire extinguishers in the house and car. I've been fortunate never to have needed them for myself although I did once extinguish a car fire for someone whose car burst into flames in the middle of a roundabout near Chester many years ago. Nowadays with fire extinguishers being so cheap it's not even worth getting them overhauled. I just replace them every so often. 

It goes without saying that my house is fitted with smoke and carbon monoxide alarms and that they are fully checked and maintained.I hope that yours are too.

However I was thinking about means of escape this morning. My house is all on one ground floor (apart from the loft which is used for storage). It has three doors to the outside and, apart from the bathroom and bedrooms all rooms have more than one door. 

Windows (except ones which open to the floor) are not (unless things have changed in the last couple of decades) allowed to be counted as means of escape in case of fire. However in an emergency anyone able bodied enough would obviously uses a window if they had to. That's probably more the case if one had to be rescued from the first or second floor by a fireman.

However it is a requirement of most, if not all, house insurance policies that windows fitted with locks (which means most double glazing for a start) are locked when the house is not occupied and that the key is not visible from the outside. Failure to comply can invalidate the policy. Of course most people check that their windows are shut and latched before they go out but I suspect that very very few people lock them. I'm also fairly sure that those who do cannot be bothered unlocking them all when they come home.

I'm also a bit obsessive over making sure that I follow the letter of insurance policies (which is probably one reason why I've never had any trouble with claims). So my windows are locked even though up here on Lewis theft from private properties is almost unknown. The trouble with that is that I only unlock them when I want to open them (which, in all honesty, is not that often here). 

If, therefore, in the middle of the night there was a fire cutting off my escape from my bedroom I'd hop out of the window. However in such a case I'd almost certainly find that the key for the windows had dropped off its hook and disappeared into the washing basket or under the bed. Life's like that.

27 comments:

  1. Prayers for Grenfell Tower
    Knowing what to do, having an escape route, fire extinguisher kept up to date, and a home plan in case of fire is something everyone should have in place, and review on a regular basis.

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    1. Maywyn you are absolutely right but I think 99% of the population work on the basis that theses things only happen to other people.

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  2. That fire will remain with us all for a lifetime, I'm sure. As for escaping from our own homes, we phoned the fire brigade once to ask what we should do in case being trapped on the top floor of our three storey house. We were told we should hang by our fingertips from the window sill and drop. I doubt whether we would survive. We do have smoke alarms.

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    1. Yes Frances it will. I do know someone in a three storey house who has rope fire ladders in a snazzy chest in front of the window anchored so that they can climb down it. Mind you they are not in their eighties yet.

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  3. It is indeed a tragedy but a quick way to go. One lung full of smoke and that's your lot.
    I too have a couple of extinguishers one foam and one an old halon one. I know the latter can't be recharged as halon is a greenhouse gas. Daft buggers so is a plastics fire.
    Thirty years ago I built a thousand square foot workshop. It was for racing cars and bikes. I had to jump through hoops to get it all spot on for the local mafiosa..... sorry planners. Building, drainage, fire folk. They were never away. I wanted a mezzanine floor for storage but that had to have a fire escape.
    I can understand how contractors get fed up. They will work all hours but local authorities work nine till five with flexi-time. Trying to get hold of the one you want is a full time job.
    Too much emoting over this and other modern day horrors. I can't stand emoting. The enquiry will make recommendations in the meantime it may be prudent to evacuate any similarly clad buildings.

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    1. It's so good to have you back Adrian. I remember that my Dad years ago before anyone knew the dangers had a CTC fire extinguisher. It was great for getting oil off clothes. However they were banned when it was discovered that if you inhaled the fumes when you had consumed alcohol the result was worse than the inhaling smoke.

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    2. Carbon Tet is a great degreaser and an excellent fire putter outer. Quite nice to sniff as well. It saves paying tax on alcohol.

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    3. It is indeed Adrian. We had our own mini dry cleaning plant in Dad's shed.

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  4. Many of us are not prepared for a residential fire. There are safety procedures but we don't employ all of them.

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    1. You're correct, of course, Red and it's all too apparent when there is afire especially in places where houses are often made of wood and where loss of life can be all too easy.

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  5. I watched with horror and much sadness the intensity of the Grenfell Tower. I cannot begin to imagine the grief that so many are feeling at this moment.

    Bushfires and fast moving grassfires are a bigger concern than structural fires here in rural Australia. Having lived through a bushfire as a teenager it will forever haunt me.

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    1. I think, Lynda, that a bush fire would be my worst nightmare (in that I've never been in a multi-storey dwelling since my teens). We did have our escape routes planned in the event of a fire starting near the house in NZ because there was a lot of dry brush in the summer and we had a large stand of eucalyptus.

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  6. One can't begin to imagine correctly how those poor people felt, trapped in that building with the fire raging uncontrollably around them. How terrifying....

    It's very distressing thinking about it....seeing the images on the news and in the papers. So very, very sad.

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    1. Lee I cannot remember feeling so emotionally affected watching those people trapped knowing they were going to die. It's not something anyone who saw it is likely to forget. And yet such things happen every day when the bombs rain down on residential areas in, for example, Syria. There is no one to looka after them. But that's a long way from home (ours).

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  7. Most people do not understand how quickly fire can spread. One of the main things that is stressed in fire safety is GET OUT. (In fact, they tell us "Get out, Stay Out, Don't Go Back In".)
    The victims in the Greenfell Tower did not have that option. That was so terrible to see, that they were trapped, unable to leave. Terrible tragedy, so sad to see the families speaking on TV of the loss of their loved ones. Just heartbreaking.

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    1. Kay you are absolutely correct. Fire I have seen fire rip through buildings at a scary pace but the Grenfell fire eclipsed anything I think even all the firefighters had experienced.

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  8. Hardly anything else has been on my mind since the disaster. It still seems like some terrible nightmare from which I'll hopefully awake.

    Our house is a death-trap if it came to fire. Downstairs fine, but upstairs has only tiny windows.

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    1. Cro I suppose that good alarms and extinguishers is the best one could do apart from think about what you would do in case of fire. I have a friend who always locks the front door and takes the key out (not unusual) but then often puts it with the car keys which might be anywhere in the house. I now have my own key and I make sure I know where it is when I go to bed. Paranoid? Moi?

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  9. The window lock business seems to simply be a loophole that allows insurance companies to dodge their responsibilities.

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    1. In reality YP I don't think it's as simple as that. Personally I think it's an unnecessary restriction for most modern windows. However I did break into a friend's ground floor flat through the sash window (with a credit card) in front of a bus queue in Dundee many decades ago. No one batted and eyelid. A lock would have been a good idea there.

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    2. What were you planning to steal? And what kind of way is that to treat a friend? Honestly - I am disappointed in you Graham. I thought you were scrupulously honest.

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    3. YP, he and his wife both thought the other had brought the front door key - neither had. I was the only one mad enough to walk along the stone window ledge above the gap below for the cellar windows.

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  10. yes we heard about the news story here in NZ too, seems horrific that banned cladding material was used in and on the building, I hope an enquiry into what happened happens. Here in NZ it's against the law not to have smoke alarms in every house.

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    1. Amy I've not seen anything so far to suggest that the cladding material was banned. It allegedly met the building standards. I'm sure that the police and fire and other investigations will determine whether it did. If it did then the implications for the hundreds, if not thousands, of similarly clad blocks will be incredible. I think the law require alarms in multi-storey and public buildings here to and new-builds have to have them wired in. There is to be a full public inquiry too.

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    2. Amy an update. Apparently you were correct in that that cladding seems to have been banned in other countries but not in the UK.

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  11. For a couple of years now, having fire/smoke detectors fitted in all living/sleeping rooms of every house and flat has been mandatory in Germany. Everyone moaned and complained when the new law came through, and suspected that it simply was there to create extra business for the fitters of such devices. However now everyone has gotten used to them, and I don't know how effective they have already proved to be in terms of reducing the number of people injured or dead through house fires.

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    1. Meike new buildings have to have them here and they have to be wired in. One problem of the old ones is that people often fail to put new batteries in. I check mine regularly.

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