29 June 2020
With COVID-19 lockdown gradually easing over the summer, we are reminding the public of the importance of keeping themselves fire safe and summer safe.
As part of the easing of lockdown restrictions, members of the public will be able to enjoy more summer activities, such as camping and water sports and the Fire & Rescue Service is reminding everyone of the importance of doing so safely.
With caravan parks having re-opened on Friday 26 June, NIFRS is also appealing to all caravan owners to make sure they have a working smoke alarm.
Area Commander Gerry Lennon, Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service said:
“We know that with some of the restrictions on lockdown easing, people will be keen to go out and enjoy the good weather this summer, so we’re reminding everyone of the importance of staying summer safe. You can do that by following our simple advice, which is available through our social media and our website.
“If you’re planning to visit a caravan park, it’s really important that you consider the importance of fire safety. Remember to take the necessary safety precautions, make sure everyone knows what to do in an emergency and crucially make sure you have a working smoke alarm.
“If you’re planning on barbequing remember never leave it unattended. This is also the time of year when water based activities increase, so if you’re swimming or using a boat, please act responsibly and always take the necessary safety precautions.
Summer often sees an increase in wildfires and gorse fires. Some of these fires can start accidentally, by careless disposal of BBQs and smoking materials. Over the previous few months NIFRS responded to over 1,160 wildfires. These fires can be very demanding for our firefighters.
Area Commander Gerry Lennon, Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service continued:
“With more people out and about, enjoying the summer, we’re asking the community to be vigilant and think about their safety. People need to be careful with their rubbish, using portable BBQs, and disposing of cigarette butts in the countryside as they might accidentally start a fire which quickly spreads and draws our Firefighters away from where they’re needed the most.
“Thankfully we’ve been able to continue protecting our community throughout this pandemic, but we still need everyone’s support to avoid putting unnecessary pressure on our Firefighters as we move into this next phase. To support your Firefighters, it’s really important that everyone continues to follow the NI Executive’s instructions on hand and respiratory hygiene, social distancing and the numbers of people allowed to meet outside”
NIFRS Summer Safety Advice
Whether you are in the garden or out camping, follow these simple tips to barbeque safety and avoid injuries or damage to property from fire.
- Make sure your barbeque site is flat and away from fences, trees, shrubs and sheds.
- Keep a bucket of water or garden hose nearby in case of emergencies.
- Never use petrol or paraffin to start or revive your barbeque – use firelighters or starter fuel on cold coals.
- Keep children, pets and garden games away from the cooking area.
- Never leave a barbeque unattended.
- Concentrate on what you are doing; it’s easy to get distracted when you have family and friends around.
- After cooking, make sure the barbeque is cool before moving it.
- Make sure ashes are cold before disposal.
- Remember, alcohol consumption increases the risk of accidents occurring.
Additional Tips for Gas Barbecues
- Make sure your barbeque is in good working order.
- Make sure the gas tap is turned off before changing the cylinder and always disconnect the cylinder in open air.
- When you have finished cooking, turn off the gas cylinder before you turn off the barbeque controls – this ensures any gas in the pipework will be exhausted.
- Tents should ideally be pitched at least 6 metres apart from other tents.
- Keep a torch handy. Never light a candle or have any kind of flame burning apparatus in or near to a tent.
- Keep lighters and matches out of the reach of children.
- General advice is to always cook outside and well away from your tent, no matter how large. Cooking appliances should never be used in small tents.
- Don’t cook near flammable materials or long grass.
- Store flammable liquids or gas cylinders away from the tent.
- Never smoke inside a tent.
- A fire can destroy a tent in 60 seconds so it is essential you have an escape plan and be prepared to cut your way out of the tent if there is fire.
- Make sure everyone knows what to do if their clothes catch fire – stop, drop to the floor and roll to put out the flames.
- If somebody else’s clothes catch fire, tell or force them to drop and try to smother the flames with a blanket or large item of clothing to quell the flames, then get them to roll.
- Find out what the Firefighting arrangements are in place for the campsite.
- If you do not have a mobile phone then find out where the nearest phone is located.
Caravan and Mobile Home Safety
Many of the same rules about fire safety in the home also apply to caravans and mobile homes.
- Park caravans and mobile homes at least 6 metres apart.
- Make a fire escape plan.
- If there’s a fire – get out, stay out and call the Fire & Rescue Service immediately.
- Make sure you can get out of a window if needed.
- Fit a smoke alarm and test it once a week.
- You should consider getting a fire extinguisher and a fire blanket, and know how to use them properly.
- Do not dry clothes on or right next to a heater.
- Make sure heaters are working properly – use a Gas Safe engineer to fix gas heaters.
- Turn gas off when not in use.
- Fit a Carbon Monoxide detector and keep air vents clear.
- Don’t overload sockets; an adapter with a lead is safer.
- Smoking inside can be dangerous so smoke outside.
- Keep matches and lighters out of the reach of children.
- Never leave cooking unattended.
- Take extra care when cooking with hot fats and oils.
- Never put water on burning oil or fat.
- When not in use, fuel should be stored ideally six metres away from your caravan or mobile home and away from heat.
Fire can be a dangerous and terrifying event, but its effects become even more serious when escape is either difficult or leads to a place of other danger. Reduce the risk from fire by following these simple tips.
- Fit a smoke alarm.
- Ensure furnishings, foam and insulation are fire retardant.
- Make a fire action plan and ensure your crew are aware of what to do if there is a fire.
- Fit a fire extinguisher in the engine compartment and the cockpit locker.
- Contain and vent battery boxes.
If a fire occurs on the marina
- If safe to do so, isolate gas and fuel supplies.
- Evacuate the craft and ensure all the crew are wearing lifejackets.
- Call the Fire & Rescue Service.
- Stay out.
- Warn neighbouring craft.
If a fire occurs at sea
- Only tackle a fire if it is safe to do so.
- Contact the Coastguard/Fire & Rescue Service.
- Identify position or give landmarks.
- Ensure all crew are wearing lifejackets.
- Prepare emergency grab bag (flares, VHF radio, compass) and life raft.
- If safe to do so, isolate gas and fuel supplies.
- Do not open the engine panel.
- Only as a last resort abandon ship.
When the weather is warm, the idea of cooling down in water can be very tempting but there are many hidden dangers that make some waterways unsuitable and unsafe for swimming.
- Remember there is no supervision by lifeguards if you get into trouble.
- The water is often a lot colder than you expect and it can impact on your physical capabilities. Just because you can swim well in a warm swimming pool doesn’t mean you’ll be able to swim well in cold water.
- It can be deep and it is often very difficult to estimate the depth before you get in.
- You can jump in but can you get out? Often people can’t find a suitable place to get out.
- There is no way of knowing what lies beneath the surface. There could be shopping trolleys, open tin cans and broken bottles.
- If it’s polluted it could make you ill.
- There may be hidden currents.
- Never drink alcohol during or just before swimming or while carrying out other activities such as boating or water skiing.
- If you are going to go swimming, make sure that somebody is nearby so you can shout for help if you get into difficulties.
Swimming at the Beach
- Children should always go to the beach with an adult. An adult can point out dangers and help if someone gets into difficulty.
- When you are swimming at the beach, be aware of which flag is flying as this will warn you of any dangers.
- A red and yellow flag means lifeguards are on patrol.
- A red flag means it is dangerous to bathe or swim, so don’t go into the water.
- A quartered black and white flag means that the area has been zoned for use of surf boards and kayaks and is not safe for swimmers and bathers.
- If you see someone in difficulty in the water, tell somebody, preferably a lifeguard if there is one nearby. Alternatively use the nearest phone or your mobile and dial 999.