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Save safely and stay warm this winter

With the cost of living continuing to increase, especially energy, many people will be looking at ways to reduce their usage and finding alternative ways to heat their homes.

Here are some general tips to help save safely this winter:

  • Check any heating appliances are in good working order and not subject to a product recall by checking the Office for Product Safety and Standards website for any alerts or recalls
  • Ensure flammable items such as furniture and drying clothes are placed well away from heaters and fires 
  • Ensure you use the correct fuel for wood burning stoves and open fires – to reduce the risk of toxic fumes, chimney fires and carbon monoxide poisoning 
  • Check your escape routes, make sure they are clear from clutter and items such as portable heaters are not blocking them. 
  • If possible don’t skip servicing of boilers and gas appliances by a Gas Safe engineer to prevent gas leaks and CO poisoning. Landlords must arrange for an annual gas safety check in rented accommodation. If you’re a homeowner check your energy provider’s website for information about their Priority Services Register – if you’re eligible they often offer a free annual gas safety check along with other support. 

Below are some key areas with some simple advice to try and help you save safely this winter.

Clear wood burner

Open fires and chimneys

The Service attends around 100 fires a year involving chimneys, most of which could be avoided by following some simple safety tips: 

  • Appoint a skilled and technically competent chimney engineer. To find your nearest local HETAS Approved Chimney Sweep visit: https://www.hetas.co.uk/find-chimney-sweep/ 
  • Keep the flue shafts clear and ensure they are well maintained 
  • Only use properly treated wood to build a fire 
  • Always use a fireguard to protect against flying sparks from hot embers 
  • Make sure embers are properly put out before you go to bed.

We always advise getting your chimney swept at least once a year, preferably before lighting it for the first time when the cold weather arrives. There could be a buildup of debris that’s accumulated over the year, which can be set alight when heating the home and could cause a significant fire.

Some will also be looking at using a chimney for the first time, that may not have been used for many years. It is really important to make sure it is swept and inspect the brickwork before lighting it for the first time. 

Washing on electric heater

Portable electric heaters

Many people will be using devices that may not have been used for several years, or they’ve had stored away for emergencies – such as when central heating has needed repair. Check that your heater is in full working order and not subject to a product recall or repair.

Plug electric heaters into a wall socket not an extension lead - they can easily be overloaded and cause fires. They must only be moved when they have been switched off and have cooled down. Heaters must not be placed where they will block an escape route and should only be used in rooms they are designed to be used in.

Standard portable heaters (gas and electric) must not be used in shower or bathrooms.

You should never place wet washing on or too close to an electric heater. The moisture combined with the electricity could easily start a fire and cause significant damage. If needed, make sure the washing is on an airer a suitable distance away from the heater. 

Candles

Candles

There have been reports of people using candles to cook but the main risk is we expect an increase in the use of candles used for lighting. This could mean people lighting more candles in spaces as the primary source of light if people want to avoid turning lights on particularly if media reports or potential enforced blackouts do happen. 

Whether you're using your candles to scent and decorate or as a religious symbol, these popular home accessories can be dangerous, so reduce your risk of causing a fire by following our tips:

  • Never leave candles unattended or go to sleep while they are lit
  • Leave plenty of space above and around the candle and its holder
  • Place candles in a draught-free area away from curtains, furniture and other flammable surfaces
  • Choose a suitable site for your candles that is flat and stable
  • Always use a proper candle-holder and fit the candle in firmly
  • Always use a heat-resistant surface to place the candle holder on - e.g. a ceramic plate, especially for night-light candles
  • Never place candles directly on televisions or other polished surfaces
  • Keep candles out of reach of children and pets
  • Never attempt to move a candle once it is lit
  • Always use a candle-snuffer, or an unturned metal spoon to extinguish the candle and allow cooling before moving it.