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27-Aug-2021


Arming yourself with fire safety know-how is the best defence against the spread of fires

Firefighters fighting a fire

It doesn’t take much for a tiny spark, or a flame that comes into contact with the wrong material, to start a devastating fire. It’s a terrifying sight to see flames grow and spread, while being helpless to do anything to stop it.

 

Fire safety is a precaution which is frequently overlooked - something that those who have found themselves facing unwanted flames wish they had paid more attention to. The good news is that it’s never too late to wise-up on your fire literacy. BIC Lighters, a world-leading manufacturer of iconic BIC lighters, as well as firelighters, has compiled some top tips that you need to know, not only about preventing fires, but also what to do in the event of a fire.

 

Prevention is better than cure

 

  • Do not leave open fires unattended and don’t leave the kitchen if you have food on the stove.
  • Ensure that there is nothing flammable near the fireplace, braai, candle or stove.
  • Make sure that your home has no illegal electrical connections and that multiplugs aren’t overloaded, as these can overheat causing sparks and fires.
  • Keep the area around your home clear of materials that can start a fire. Even piled-up dry leaves in Autumn provide perfect kindling for a spark.
  • If you see anyone playing carelessly with fire, matches or lighters, tell them to stop.
  • Ensure that previously lit objects (e.g. cigarette butts or coals) are completely “dead” before disposing of them.
  • Use quality lighters and store them properly. Not all lighters are created equal. “BIC’s manufacturing process is one of the most modern in the world, and adheres to the strictest quality and safety standards. Every BIC lighter undergoes more than 50 automatic quality and security checks,” explains Karen Moodley, Marketing Manager for BIC Lighters & Firelighters, Southern Africa.

 

Nip it in the bud

 

  • Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Act immediately, and sensibly, doing what you can to stop them before they become uncontrollable, while ensuring that you keep yourself between the fire and an exit so you have a quick escape. The two most important actions to remember: cut off the source and starve from oxygen.
  • Make sure that you have a multi-purpose (ABC) fire extinguisher in your home and that you know how to operate it. Here are the basics: remove the safety pin, aim the nozzle or hose at the base of the fire, squeeze the lever slowly and evenly, and sweep the nozzle from side to side until the fire is completely out.
  • Know how to treat different types of fires. While water is good for common combustibles like paper, wood, fabrics or plastic, you should never use water for electrical fires, or those caused by flammable liquids such as oil, paraffin. If you catch it early enough, the flames are small and manageable, and it’s safe, you can do the following:
    • For oil or grease fires: cover the flames with a metal lid or baking sheet. Leave the cover on until it has cooled. Switch off the source of heat, and smother with baking soda or salt if needed (not flour or sugar).
    • For electrical fires: cut off the electricity supply and smother with thick clothing or a heavy blanket.
    • For gas fires: turn off the source of the gas immediately and cover with a heavy blanket.
    • For vehicle fires: Turn off the ignition, get all passengers a safe distance away from the vehicle and call emergency services. You should only attempt to extinguish the flames if they are confined to the inside of the car and if you have easy access to a fire extinguisher. Do not use water, and never open the hood of the car if flames or smoke are coming from underneath it.

 

 

Know when to walk away

 

Safety should always come first. They say  it only takes two minutes for a fire to turn from manageable to life-threatening, and only five before the house is engulfed in flames. The heat and smoke from a fire are also extremely dangerous, with the risk of burning your lungs and airways, and suffocating from smoke inhalation.

 

If your attempts to extinguish the flames don’t work almost immediately, drop everything and get out.

 

If it’s too late, or you find yourself trapped in a burning building, remember the following:

 

  • If closed doors or handles are warm or smoke blocks your escape route, use your second way out. Never open doors that are warm to the touch.
  • If you must escape through smoke, get low and go under the smoke to your exit. Close doors behind you.
  • If smoke, heat or flames block your exit routes, stay in the room with doors closed and place a wet towel under the door.
  • If your clothes catch fire, remember the phrase ’Stop, Drop and Roll’.  Stop what you are doing immediately, drop to the ground, cover your face, and roll over until the flames go out. Always remember that running will make the fire burn faster.

 

“With fires spreading at the rate that they do, many of our communities in South Africa living in very close proximity, and the abundance of dry vegetation, we need to work together to prevent the spread of fires. This means taking individual responsibility for fire safety and education, and being prepared to act immediately when you see the start of a fire - whether it affects you directly or not. This could be as simple as calling emergency services to report fires, or shouting for help without hesitation,” concludes Moodley.

 

For more tips and resources, visit flickitsafely.com, a fire awareness and education initiative developed by BIC in partnership with Fireproof Children.