The Jamaica Fire Brigade (JFB) is advising persons to utilise this period of increased work from home to reduce fire hazards around the home, and be vigilant in identifying potential fire hazards.
“During this time when we are working from home, use the opportunity to get rid of all combustible material. We would have seen a ban on single-use plastic bags and I know that is a major concern, because people may still have some in drawers and cabinets. Also, that stack of newspapers that a lot of persons have at home can aid in what we call the surface spread and the rate of surface spread of a fire,” Officer in Charge of the Fire Prevention Division at the JFB, Emeleo Ebanks, told JIS News.
The JFB is also appealing to adults to remember that children should never be left unattended, and flammable substances should be kept out of their reach, particularly now that children are home for an extended period of time.
As for cooking, persons are being reminded to not leave it unattended for prolonged periods, check the proper functioning of stoves and gas regulators and refrain from positioning stoves under windows with decorative curtains.
Mr. Ebanks advised that while more devices are being used at home, which increases the need for charging, persons should never overload sockets and extension cords, as this can both damage appliances and lead to fires.
“Those extension cords are not meant to carry any amount of load. It is best if you get a surge protector for all your appliances. The surge protector will, as the name suggests, take a surge in electricity and it will break the circuit to ensure that you are not starting a fire. So, it is extremely important that you are purchasing the right tools for the job at hand. We do not recommend leaving anything plugged in overnight. Once they are not in use, plug them out. Also, never ever use extension cords on appliances that have very short cords. They pull on a lot of energy very quickly and the extension cords may not be able to supply that amount of energy,” the Head of the Fire Prevention Division said.
Mr. Ebanks also advised against the use of extension cords on beds, under carpets and behind furniture, stating that the cord should be visible from the point where it is plugged in to where you require the electricity. An extension cord that is hot to the touch is being overworked.
For his part, Sergeant Ian McConnell added that sometimes overlooked housekeeping matters can lead to fires in the home.
“For the electrical socket on the wall, if the covering is removed and you can see the screws and wires in that area, the dust from the atmosphere can fill within that area and as a result could cause a fire. Even in some cases we have curtains that are hanging over these sockets and the bed is pushed up against it, this can also be a fire risk. So, you must ensure that nothing is plugged into any of these sockets. Also, if you don’t clean the cobwebs from across bulbs, especially the incandescent bulbs, the cobweb itself can be a lint and it starts a fire, so we have to be very careful,” Sergeant McConnell warned.
If your house was certified more than five years ago, a licensed and certified electrician should come in and conduct checks on the electrical wiring.
Persons are also being advised to develop a comprehensive family emergency plan for exiting the home and an assembly point, similar to that of business places.
“Certainly, the plan must include a space that you are going to congregate outside of the house. One of the rules of thumb is that if you live in a building that has multiple floors, the area that you will gather must be away from the building if the building should fall flat. What you don’t want is a situation in an earthquake and the building falls over and you congregate right there,” Mr. Ebanks said.
“If you have persons in your home with special needs, there must be a plan as to who is going to get those persons out in the event of an emergency. Make sure everybody knows their job as to who will get who out. We have to make these things a part of our everyday lives and if we continue to act and plan in such a way, we will continue to push down the instances of deaths from fires,” he added.
Between January and September of this year, the JFB recorded 20 fire-related deaths. The most common cause of the 1,097 structural fires in the same period was electricity related.
The public is also reminded to call their nearest fire station in the case of a fire or the emergency numbers 110 and 112.