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House on Fire! continued
House fires are rarely accidental

Electricity in general is convenient and ought to be safe. As long as any faults are attended to by a licenced electrician there shouldn't be a problem. So, if a light flickers for no reason, the globe keeps blowing, or a power socket doesn't always switch on and off properly, something is clearly wrong and needs fixing. Any electrically-powered unit that begins to misbehave requires attention; but by professionals who know what they are doing. Certainly this costs money; not as much, though, as it will if the fault or botched DIY job causes a fire. Unfortunately, electrical faults aren't always obvious; and when a fire starts as a result somewhere out of sight and there was no prior warning, it can hardly be blamed on the resident. This would have to be regarded as one of the few truly accidental home fires. Not many are.

Parents and carers are usually careful to ensure young children don't play with anything that might start a fire, keeping matches and lighters out of their reach. Unfortunately no amount of warnings will deter adventurous kids and they will find a way if nobody's watching. What begins as a bit of fun in the bedroom setting light to a small piece of paper as a kind of experiment may not seem dangerous to them; not until the flame contacts something flammable and spreads rapidly. They don't mean to do it, of course, and will hopefully fetch an adult to stop the blaze before it really takes hold; but if they are home alone the consequences are likely to be disastrous.

Everyone should be aware of the consequences of house fires. Unless the source of the blaze is extinguished quickly it can spread and is almost impossible to stop; often fuelled by soft furnishings and other items that are sometimes explosive when they catch light. Synthetic fillings in bedcovers, lounge suits and the like not only burn fiercely, but as they do they produce suffocating smoke and toxic fumes that can render a person unconscious in a matter of seconds. It bears to be wise before the fact and take all necessary precautions.

Smoke alarms are a must, should be fitted as recommended and tested regularly; batteries replaced every year as a matter of course. Unplug re-chargeable battery units from the mains power as soon as they are fully charged. Don't place flammable items close to any heat source. And be extra careful when cooking, keeping an occasional eye on the pots, pans and white goods to make sure they don't overheat. Ensure that bottle of oil is placed well clear of the cooking area. And try not to be in so much of a rush that safety and commonsense take a back seat. Your home is precious; even more so the lives of the people and pets in it. Discuss the possibility of a fire breaking out and have an emergency evacuation plan that everyone understands.

Finally, whether insured or not, if the house is gutted and everything in it is lost, recovery will be hard. As an extra precaution, make yourself up a grab-and-go bag that is easily accessible, light enough to carry and contains the essentials for returning to normal as quickly as possible. Download "Your Emergency Check List" from the foot of ASOH Home Page; and for more detailed information have a read of theFocus 16 article, "In Case of Emergency." Both could be life-savers.

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