Plug in to fire safety week

HOMEOWNERS are being warned to watch out for overloaded sockets and overheated appliances ahead of a week-long fire safety initiative.

Electrical Fire Safety Week, which gets underway on Monday for the first time, is aimed at raising awareness of one of the biggest causes of accidental house fires in the country.

Cleveland Fire Brigade and the Fire Kills campaign have teamed up with the Electrical Safety Council to spread the fire safety message and ensure people are taking care with their appliances especially during the winter months when residents are more likely to have heaters and electric blankets plugged in.

Figures reveal that nationally in 2007 more than 60 percent of all accidental house fires were caused by electrical equipment.

Across the country 40 deaths were caused by accidental electrical fires in the home in 2007 and each year, faulty or misused electrical products cause more than 50 house fires throughout Hartlepool, Stockton, Middlesbrough and Redcar and east Cleveland.

Cleveland Fire Brigade is aiming to bring that number down and are officers calling on homeowners to help by checking that the electrical equipment they use everyday is in good shape and is operated properly.

Les Jones, head of community safety, said: "Fire in the home can be devastating, but many of these fires are preventable.

"Over half of all accidental fires begin with an electrical appliance, so it's really important that everyone makes sure that their electrics are in good working order and are used properly.

"The majority of electrical fires start in the kitchen, people need to be extra careful when using cooking appliances.

"By following some simple steps, people can help keep themselves and their loved ones safe from fire."

The steps are:

Don't overload plug sockets

Regularly check for worn or frayed wires

Unplug appliances when not in use

Keep appliances clean and in good working order

Consider using a residual current device (a device which protects against electric shocks and reduces the risk of electrical fires)

The Electrical Safety Council advises that heaters should be kept clear from curtains and furniture and should never be used for drying clothes. Electric blankets should be unplugged before people go to bed, unless it has a thermostat for safe all-night use.

Cleveland Fire Brigade provides free home fire safety visits and, where necessary, free smoke alarms.

To arrange a visit, call (01429) 874063.