A woman receives a disturbing call from her sister’s neighbor. She calls her sister, she doesn’t answer. She calls again, still no answer. Alarmed, she goes to her sister’s ground floor apartment and knocks on the door, there is no response. She turns on the doorknob, it is very hot. Concerned neighbors pitch in and break open the door, but it is too late. Their neighbors – a father, his wife and his three children are already dead. This sad fate of a five-member Egyptian family was all over front pages last week, stressing the severity of fire fatalities and highlighting fire safety concerns for both the fire department and residents. While intensive investigations about the incident are still being done, preliminary investigations showed that the victims died of suffocation. Last June, an Egyptian child suffered severe burn injuries in a fire at her family’s apartment in Jabriya and in March, three Saudi children died of smoke inhalation after their Saad-Abdullah apartment caught fire. A month earlier, two children died due to suffocation after a fire burned their house into ashes in Subahiya. All the victims were children. The 2014 Statistical Report of Incidents by the Kuwait Fire Service Directorate (KFSD) revealed some important statistics on residential fire incidents:

1. Majority of fires are residential. There was an annual increase of about 4 percent in the number of residential fires in 2014. Notably, while there are more cases of residential fires, fires in non-residential areas grew at a faster rate of 34 percent in the same year.

2. Most fires occurred in Farwaniya governorate followed by Ahmadi and Hawally.

3. Short circuit, cooking gas and combustibles are the main causes of house fires. The most common cause of ignition in residential areas is short circuit, while youngsters playing with heat source or combustibles are the main cause in other areas. Other causes include electric overload, an unattended cooking utensil on a gas cooker, heat source used or placed too close to combustibles, and discarded cigarettes and other similar items.

4. It is crucial to have an emergency plan as most fires occurred in the short span of 10-19 minutes. The next house fire may be in your home, thus the need for fire safety precautions. Moreover, the findings reveal that that being safe extends to just having a fire extinguisher, but to actually covering all safety areas, specifically the major ones that cause fires. Checking that your house has the safety features before buying and building it is likewise imperative. Lastly, an emergency plan, known to and practiced by all family members, may one day be your loved one’s lifesaver.

By Kristine Nones

What to do in case of fire?

1. Immediately evacuate residents from the house.

2. Remain calm and do not panic. This will help you deal with the situation.

3. Turn the gas and electrical power off, without exposing yourself to danger.

4. Immediately use the available extinguishing device to prevent the spread of flames.

5. If you are unable to extinguish the fire within the first minute, call the Kuwait Fire Service Directorate (KFSD) number 112 and immediately leave the place and warn your neighbors.

6. Put a wet handkerchief on the mouth and nose in case of exposure to heavy smoke.

7. Before opening the door, make sure there is no fire behind it by touching the handle of the door and the wall. If it is hot, look for another exit.

8. Close the door after leaving the room where the fire originated to prevent spreading the fire.

9. If the flames reach your clothes, do not run. Throw yourself on the ground and roll about or wrap yourself in a blanket to smother the fire.

10. In case of heavy smoke, crawl on your hands and knees since the air at ground level would help you breathe better.

11. Firemen have vehicles, ladders and the necessary equipment to save you: Try to stand near a window if you are unable to flee, so that firemen could help you.

12. Avoid crowding the area because this prevents the firemen from performing their duties and reduces the chance of rescue for others.

Offer to help and execute their instructions and advices. 13. Avoid using the lift in case of fire in the building. Use the emergency stairway. – www.kfsd.gov.kw

How to save a life: Fire safety precautions in the home

Check electrical wirings

• Are electrical wirings properly installed? Use only high quality approved electrical devices, equipment and network.

• Are wirings insulated? Internal and external electrical network wires should be inserted in insulated pipes.

• Immediately repair any electrical fault. Check for deterioration of electrical cables and use of damaged sockets.

• Periodically maintain electrical wires and cables. It should not be exposed or installed under the carpets.

• Do not use unsecured electrical power. • Do not use unsecured electrical apparatus or use it contrary to specifications.

• Do not clean electrical apparatus with wet hands without unplugging the device. This may expose the person to electrical shock. Overvoltage of electrical outlets, equipment

• Do not neglect the maintenance of electrical equipment, especially air-conditioners.

• Ensure your laptop is disconnected from the electrical current after using it and do not place on flammable fabric or material.

• Ensure unused electrical devices are not plugged-in.

Exhaust fans Fire often breaks out in exhaust fans due to the sparks caused by the internal contact with lint, and also to cooking oil vapors gathering on the fan. The suitability, cleanliness and the appropriate connection of such equipment should always be checked. Exhaust fans should not be left working for hours.

Gas

• Turn off the gas cylinder as soon as you finish using the cooker.

• Do not expose the gas cylinder to the sun or heat.

• Prevent children from playing with the cooker switches and warn them against playing with the cooker or the gas cylinder.

• Change the gas cylinder once empty with the help of a competent person.

• Use soap foam to check for gas leakage (if bubbles exist, that indicate there is leakage).

• Check gas cylinder and gas installations (pipes, hoses, valves) on a regular basis to ensure they are in good condition.

• Always check the gas hose is suitable for use. Check that the rubber pipe has no cracks and is of good quality, and its length is suitable enough to avoid formation of sharp bending.

• There should be a fire blanket, fire extinguisher, gas detector and smoke alarm in the kitchen.

Cookers

• Never wear large clothes or clothes made of certain flammable materials (such as nylon) when cooking.

• Never leave flammable materials near to the cooker while cooking.

• Leaving cooking pots unsupervised when cooking may put the family and the house in danger due to the burning of food because of excess cooking time and boiling over of liquids that cause the extinction of flame, triggering a gas leakage.

• Stoves and burners must be checked to ensure their cleanness and there are no blockages in gas outlets.

Flammable liquids The use of flammable liquids such as petrol inside the house for any reason is contrary to prevention and safety rules and may endanger the family and the house.

Storage

• Some people store their domestic possessions at random inside the home. Since almost all of such belongings are flammable, the simple presence of a source of fire may set the whole place ablaze.

• A minimum distance of one meter should be kept between any source of fire or heat and flammable materials.

• Don’t smoke. If unavoidable, refrain from smoking in bed and ensure that cigarette butts are fully extinguished before throwing it in the dust bin.

Children

• Matches and lighters should be kept out of children’s reach.

• Instruct children not to play with electrical equipment or sockets.

• Ensure all sockets children can reach are switched off.

• Always have an eye on children’s movements while in the kitchen.

• Do not leave children in the kitchen without the presence of an adult.

Preventing domestic

fire Fire extinguishers

• The user of fire extinguisher must be perfectly acquainted with the use of such device and know which type to use depending on the fire.

• Kitchen and corridors should be provided with powder manual fire extinguishers to fight different types of fires, while CO2 fire extinguishers should be used for electrical device fires.

• The fire extinguisher should be within reach and placed in appropriate places near exits to avoid being surrounded by fire.

• Take into account that the extinguisher would be empty after eight seconds of use.

• Ascertain that the content of the extinguisher is sufficient to cover the fire area.

Smoke detector The smoke detector warns against fire before it spreads. Make sure that it is installed in the appropriate place and maintain it periodically.

Emergency exits Emergency exits are the way out to safety for you and your family when in danger. You must therefore keep this path clear so that you could reach it easily.

Emergency plan

1. Set safety plans for family members and maids, including steps to be taken during emergencies. Kuwait Fire Service Directorate (KFSD) number 112 and your home address must be located in a prominent place in the house.

2. Assign some of the family members to evacuate the children, elderly and special needs people during fire emergency.

3. Conduct fire drills. Train family members, especially children, on how to evacuate safely during fire emergency. When building or buying a home

• Select an appropriate location, far away from the sources of pollution and industrial area.

• Select an appropriate design for the villa or apartment. – www.kfsd.gov.kw