Heather Chilvers

Good time to review fire safety in your home

  • Life-saver: all-purpose extinguishers are required in all residential rebuilds, renovations and new constructions in Bermuda

Dear Heather,

A friend of mine had a small fire at her house recently. I was wondering what fire-prevention methods I should be taking in my own home?

ó Fire Prevention

Dear Fire Prevention,

Did you know that October is Fire Safety Awareness Month? So this is a very timely question. October is a good time to review your fire safety equipment, as we are coming into the time of year when we do more cooking indoors as opposed to using BBQs; we also use heaters, light warm, cosy fires and use candles for ambient lighting.

I went to visit Graham and Jonathan Watts of A-Z Fire Protection Ltd to chat with them about whatís generally needed in a home to help keep you safe. A-Z has been in the fire protection business for 16 years; its staff has more than 100 yearsí combined experience in the trade.

The Department of Planning requires all residential rebuilds, renovations and new construction to have a minimum of a 2.5lb ABC type (all purpose) fire extinguisher in the kitchen. Failure to do this will mean you will not get your signed occupancy certificate.

There are two other types of fire extinguishers ó A is water and BC is for flammable liquids or electrical fires. If your house is two storeys then it is a good idea to have a fire extinguisher upstairs too.

Fire extinguishers have a shelf life of about ten years, if treated properly. They should be inspected regularly, at least once per year by a certified fire safety technician to make sure the pin hasnít been displaced or the pressure hasnít dropped. There is a gauge on the outside which gives you a reading on this. If you are using the ABC, which is a chemical powder fire extinguisher, it is a good idea to turn them gently up and down until you can hear the powder moving on the inside as it tends to settle over time.

Make sure everyone in the household knows where the fire extinguisher is and how to use it (even the children). Have a plan in place as to what you as a family should do if there is a fire; know your exits. Run through your fire escape plan with the children on a regular basis.

Please check if you have a Kidde fire extinguisher that it doesnít have a plastic head. These were manufactured between 1973 and 2018 and have all been recalled. If you have one of these you should replace it with one with a metal head. There are many types available that can be purchased at hardware stores or suppliers and they start at about $65 ó a small price to pay for your familyís safety. (Note: Now that I know this, I have seen two in peopleís homes just this week.)

Just because you donít have a fireplace in your house does not mean you arenít at risk for a fire. Keep in mind that 99 per cent of the fires in Bermuda start in the kitchen ó on the stove or in the oven.

However, fires can also be caused by candles, cigarettes, flammable liquids (particularly if using a gas lantern), paints or gas, usually stored in the garage, overloaded electrical services, irons, Christmas trees and electrical appliances (large and small) that are run on extension cords.

These arenít grounded, donít do it! They can happen during hurricanes. In one instance, a fire started in a hurricane and, unfortunately, the fire department couldnít get to the house. The damage was extensive and much of it could have been prevented if an extinguisher was on hand.

So be sure to check and review your fire equipment and replace or upgrade if necessary. Have a warm, wonderful and safe winter in your home.

ē Heather Chilvers is among Coldwell Banker Bermuda Realtyís leading sales representatives. She has been working in real estate for nearly 30 years. Contact her at hchilvers@brcl.bm or 332-1793. All questions will be treated in confidence. Look for Ask Heather Real Estate on Facebook