Immediately when you discover a house fire, get everyone out safely and then telephone the fire services. With a pan fire, cover the pan with a lid, plate, damp towel or fire blanket. Wait until the flames are extinguished and the pan is cool before touching. If it’s an electrical fire, before dealing with a burning electrical appliance or socket outlet (receptacle), switch off the electricity at the consumer unit. After you’ve done so, put out the fire with a fire extinguisher or water.
If a television or computer is on fire, switch off the electricity at the consumer unit or at the socket if you can reach it safely. Do not use water, as residual electricity may still be present. Always smother the flames with a rug or blanket to extinguish them.
If a fire is too big to deal with, leave the place immediately, closing the door firmly behind you. Ensure that everyone leaves the house, closing doors behind the house to slow down the spread of smoke and flames. Telephone the fire services in a telephone box or from a neighbor’s house.
Smoke kills more people than flames do. It is vital to get out of a smoke filled house as soon as you can. Smoke and heat rise, so if the smoke is very dense, crawl on your hands and knees and you should be able to see and feel your way to safety. A damp towel or cloth tied over your nose and mouth can help to reduce smoke inhalation.
If you are trapped on an upstairs floor, open the window to call for help. A wet towel placed at the gap under the door will help to prevent smoke from penetrating. Double-glazed windows that are sealed create a barrier of astonishing strength. Do not attempt to smash them with your hands, instead, try to find a chair or other heavy object.
In the kitchen
Only buy detergent and cleaning chemicals with child-proof tops, as not all dangerous products have these. As many such products are stored conveniently under the sink where youngsters can reach them, so be sure to fit cupboard (closets well) with locks. Ideally, you store the cleaning materials in a high cupboard or on a shelf out of their reach. Never decant household cleaning agents or chemicals into other containers.
Never leave out knives and scissors once you have finished with them. Keep them safe and beyond reach in a wooden knife tidy, on a magnetic rack or in it lockable drawer. Even if you make sure that panhandles are kept pointing inwards so that children cannot reach them, hob and cooker guards that clip to the edges are an additional safety measure for the one time they can.
A hot oven front can give a nasty burn to an unsuspecting child. Look for the cool touch oven fronts that are available on many new ovens, or buy an oven guard which forms a neat but effective barrier between the heat and the child. If you are using a frying pan, avoid spots of hot fat landing on the floor where the child could easily slip, or even worse falling on a child standing nearby by placing a spatter guard over the pan while you are cooking. Also cover sockets (receptacles) with special covers to prevent young children from poking their fingers or pencils into them.
In the bathroom
When running a bath, even if you have mixer taps (faucets), run the cold water first, then top it up with hot water to bring the bath temperature up to the correct degree. Always test the water first by dipping your elbow (which is as sensitive as a child’s delicate skin) into it. Similarly, never turn on a shower while you are standing underneath it, switch it on first, check that the temperature is not too hot, and then step in.
Unfortunately, children can find the toilet a wonderful place for dropping in your toiletries and their toys. Keep them safe by fitting special lid locks which are easy and quick to open. Cupboard (closet) locks on bathroom cabinets keep small hands away from cleaning chemicals and medicines. Always keep medicines locked away in a safe, dry place.
Wall mounted bathroom cabinets are ideal, and can be situated where children are unable to reach them. Flush old and out of date medicines down the toilet, or take them to your chemist (drugstore) for safe disposal.
Discourage children from leaving toys or clothing on the stairs, as they can be a hazard. Fit a safety gate at the bottom and the top of the stairs, so that babies cannot crawl up only to try going back once they find their way blocked.
Windows and doorways
Fit safety locks to upstairs windows to prevent them from being opened by children. Look for an extended safety gate that can also be used as a static barrier across both open windows and doorways.
In the bedroom
Jumping on beds can be great fun but the consequences are lethal if a child should crash into a pane of glass. Cover any potentially dangerous windows with special self adhesive safety film, which will stop the glass from breaking into sharp, jagged pieces. Jumping on sofas can be equally hazardous if you have glass fronted units or glass topped tables, so ensure that these too are covered with sheets of safety film. Fit safety film to window panes, glass doors or tables to prevent shards of glass from causing injury if they break.
Provide a nursery light or a simple night light that plugs directly into a socket outlet (receptacle) to give a soft, reassuring glow and to enable a child to find his or her way if they happen to wake at night. Choose children’s toys carefully, checking for any loose parts, sharp points and edges or rough joints, all of which can cause injury. Pulling any suspect parts is worth doing before you buy, to find our whether the toy comes apart and could hurt a child.
When repainting a child’s bedroom, remember that old paint may contain lead. If unsure, remove paint with a chemical stripper, not a sander or a scraper. The stripper will form a paste which will prevent any lead from entering the atmosphere. Additionally when young children are unwell, a portable baby monitor will alert you to all the sounds from the nursery, leaving you to move about freely while the children sleep.
In the living room
Always place a fireguard in front of a fire even an electric one, as children may be fascinated by the glow that it emits. If possible, choose a guard with a sloping top so that toys or drinks cannot sit on it.
Swimming pools and ponds should be covered when not in use, or surrounded by a child proof fence that cannot be climbed or crawled under. An unobtrusive wire cover can be placed over ponds and left in place throughout the year.