electrical fires

Electrical fire safety in the home is clearly an important issue. But sometimes it gets overlooked. The familiarity of our surroundings, and the habits we all fall into, can mean it’s easy to not really think about actions that might actually be quite risky.

UK charity Electrical Safety First is trying to address that. As part of its work, it is currently offering grants to help fund electrical fire prevention initiatives through working in partnership with various stakeholders in local communities. Ultimately it hopes these partnerships and projects will contribute to reducing the number of electrically-related accidental fires and injuries in UK homes. The grants aren’t open to commercial businesses, but are available to non-profit organisations who want to run projects aimed at reducing risk in the home. For example, previous grants have been made available to the education sector for work designed to increase awareness of electrical safety with schoolchildren in more deprived areas across the country.

Fire safety in the home is a significant issue

There have been many incidents of electrical fires in homes over the past year alone. An overloaded extension lead resulted in severe damage to a home in Wrexham, North Wales, including completely gutting the living room. Faulty electrical wiring caused a house fire in Warrington. In the West Midlands, flats had to be evacuated after a fire broke out in the building’s electrical box.

Appliances continue to cause problems too. Again in North Wales, this time in Mold, a dishwasher caught fire causing damage to the kitchen. You’re probably aware of the ongoing recall of several white goods products - notably Whirlpool – due to concerns about the fire risks they pose.  In 2018 Electrical Safety First put the spotlight onto Greater Manchester, highlighting the fact that the region had a significant problem with electrical appliances causing fires in the home – 860 fires over the space of a year. And, of course, it’s believed that a fridge-freezer was the starting point of the Grenfell Tower fire.

It’s easy for risks to be overlooked given that for homeowners, it’s not an environment that’s risk assessed. There are obligations when properties are privately rented however: as part of overall fire safety responsibilities, landlords and managing agents need to ensure that electrical systems, like light fittings, sockets and consumer units, are safe. Likewise, any portable electrical appliances supplied must be checked; if an electrical appliance has its own plug, it’s likely to require PAT testing by a competent person. But electrical fires can still happen in these environments too. That’s why community projects that seek to inform, educate and reduce risk in all types of domestic dwellings are something to be welcomed.

Do community education and prevention projects help?

There’s evidence that this kind of community targeting does have an impact. Recently the Welsh Government’s Deputy Minister for Housing and Local Government announced a potential shift of focus for Wales’ Fire and Rescue Services to take on a broader safety role as a result of a reducing number of fire incidents.  Wales has been running an extensive home fire safety visit programme which has targeted people identified as being most at risk of fire. As well as the visits, safety devices have been supplied free to householders. It seems community initiatives can deliver tangible results so it’s really positive to see Electrical Safety First offering support through its grants alongside its many awareness campaigns. While the current coronavirus pandemic is inevitably going to delay progress of some of these projects, with firefighter involvement already being scaled back to limit infection spread, it’s important that in the longer term fire safety in the community continues to be prioritised.

You’ll find further advice from Electrical Safety First about ways to avoid electrical fires in the home here, along with some suggestions of simple checks that it’s worth getting in the habit of doing regularly. And if you’re responsible for any form of privately rented accommodation, don’t forget we can help with ensuring you are meeting all of your fire safety obligations to keep your tenants safe. Please do get in touch with us for more details.