It can take less than 3 minutes for a fire to start in your property, as follows –
Something starts smouldering. It could be a phone charger. A hair dryer or straighteners. They are left too close to the bed.
It could be a fan heater or even an oil filled portable heater. A dropped cigarette, or even an overloaded four electric adaptor. A shorten phone charger cable.
The bedding is alight. Maybe some papers or some furnishing that the tenant has left out. They have caught fire already. The flames are starting to grow. The smoke detector has not yet gone off. Even if it is inside your room.
By 30 seconds the bed or curtains are well alight. Thick black poisonous smoke is starting to fill the room. If you are lucky and there is a smoke alarm in your room it will then have started sounding. Essential to wake you up if you are asleep when a fire starts. Get out fast and close the door behind you. Raise the alarm to get your house mates or family out.
The fire is spreading to other items in the room. The smoke is black acrid and poisonous.
It is becoming too hot to breathe. Drop to the floor to cool out.
1 Minute 30 Seconds.
The smoke and heat are unbearable. One lung full of that smoke could boil inside your lungs. It is full of poisonous gases like cyanide.
In just 2 minutes the bedroom has become a raging inferno.
The air temperature is well above boiling. This is near the floor and 600 C at the ceiling. If you are still in there your chances of survival are low and even if you survive you are likely to have horrendous burns.
2 Minutes 22 Seconds.
At 2 minutes 22 seconds everything in the room spontaneously combusts. The air temperature reaches 600 -800 Celsius. Nobody will survive.
A few seconds later flash over occurs. This is black smoke itself ignites creating a massive all consuming fire ball.
In less than 3 minutes it is all over and the room is alight.
It is so important as a landlord that you understand how fires occur and how quickly they can take place in a property. There are regulations now that require all landlords to have smoke and heat alarms in respect of properties. But you should also consider PAT testing and EICR’s. When was the last time you checked your fire alarms that they were in date? Have they been out of date for some considerable time? Do they even work? Do you ask your tenants to check them? It is your responsibility as a landlord to ensure that this is done.
What are the things that could start fires?
Electrical heaters. Fan heaters, radiant heaters, oil filled radiators and infrared heaters are common. Convection heaters are also high risk. This is often because they go wrong inside. They often do. That is why is it so important to have a PAT test. There is clothing, curtains and bedding around and these get alight very quickly. There could be furniture and papers now that people work at home, they get so hot they start a fire.
Wall mounted electric heaters can start fires.
Tenants often have drying clothes on heaters and do not understand that these are massive fire hazards. Make sure that your tenants are aware that they should not do this. Please click here to read our previous article on Useful tips and Property Care for landlords.
Adaptors, wires, and cables.
We know nowadays that everybody has some sort of an adaptor. Make sure that your tenants are aware to try and avoid adaptors and trailing cables where they can. They are well known fire risks. If there are not enough sockets at the property perhaps you need to consider more. It is a well-known fire safety problem.
Never plug heaters, kettles, or high watt devices into multiway adaptors. This can overload. If you know it is something in your property perhaps you should consider having another plug put in. A small cost for a potentially big problem. Look out for any frayed cables or charring around the plug. Make sure the socket pins are working. If you find anything that is lose etc make sure your tenants are aware they should be reporting these to you.
Phone, tablets, PC’s, and chargers.
More and more people are now working from home, so it is forever important that if your tenants are, they are aware of the dangers. They need to keep chargers well away from anything flammable. Anything like bedding and papers. Better still use the USB ports and sockets if they have them. And if they do not perhaps you might want to consider fitting some. They are far safer, and they free up 13 sockets for other things.
It is not only cheap phone and tablet chargers that catch fire. Apple and android chargers do as well. Many tablet charging leads overheat and set the bed alight. The batteries in phone, tablets and laptops have a bad habit of exploding too. So never leave them on your bed or close the inflammable materials.
Phones, tablets, and laptops are the most dangerous when charging. Laptops can self-ignite themselves. You should not leave them on the sofa or near flammable materials when it is charging. Put them on a hard surface with space around them.
Candle and tea lights.
People seem to love tea lights nowadays. They are one of the biggest causes of fires though. The wax and the case can get up to 150 Celsius. This will melt plastic and synthetic surfaces.
Tea lights can even set bathtubs on fire. However, worst still they tip the metal through a surface and the wax spills out. The wax ignites like petrol. A fireball is created setting fire to everything around.
Even in holders they are not safe. They can set light to adjacent fabrics. Sometimes the wax can spontaneously combust.
Are your tenants using them? Do you want to consider asking them not to? There are battery ones that are much safer that can be bought. Candles are not much safer either. If they are accidentally knocked over can set light to fabric or bedding. Clothing or curtains that accidentally get too close are far easier to catch light.
Smoking and E-Cigs indoors.
An unattended cigarette can easily start fires. They can fall backwards out of an ashtray and set fire to papers. They roll onto floors and set the carpets or curtains alight. If you are partial to a joint, you know how often the tips fall out making rock burns on clothing or on the sofa. Worst still you fall asleep in your bed whilst smoking. The bedding catches fire. People should not smoke indoors it is safer to smoke outdoors. Again, make sure your tenancies have clauses confirming no smoking. E-Cigs or vapes can explode too. They have got the same sort of batteries as smart phones. They are most dangerous when charging. So, keep them off the bed and away from flammable material.
Hair dryers, straighteners, and tongs.
Straighteners can reach temperatures of over 235 C. Can take up to 40 minutes to cool down. After use make sure you unplug them. Put them on a surface that cannot catch fire. Like a heat mat. Make sure there is no clothing, fabric, or papers nearby.
Hair dryers can catch fire if the motor fails. If they are covered over by bedding. Always unplug after use. Never place on a bed. Like the straighteners and tongs put it on a hard surface. Make sure nothing call fall on it.
Electrical and kitchen appliances.
Washing machine and tumble dryers cause the most fires. Unfortunately, this was the cause of the terrible fire at Grenfell due to a fridge. Make sure to empty the dryers filter before every use. Fluff blocks the airs causing overheating and fire.
Dishwashers have a bad reputation too. Never leave them on overnight. Overheating frying pans and chip pans can easily start a fire. Especially if the oil gets too hot. Never leave an oil pan unattended as when they catch fire it is like a fire ball.
Most fridges and freezers are also the problem. Obviously, you can’t turn them off at night. Make sure the kitchen fire door is firmly shut before you go to bed. Make sure the kitchen alarm can alert you. The door holds smoke and makes sure you can get out alive.
What as a landlord can I do to safe lives on my own property?
The purpose of fire doors is simple. Its to keep the boiling, poisonous smoke inside the room. It gives you an opportunity to leave your property within 30 minutes. It gives you the opportunity to get out safely. Whether it starts in a bedroom or a lounge it gives you time to get out. They are often used on kitchens to keep the fire in. Always make sure that your tenants do not wedge the doors open and that they are not used.
You are now legally responsible to ensure that there are smoke and fire detectors in your property. You should always ensure that these are checked every 3 or 6 months either by yourself or your letting agents. When they go round make sure that the tenants have not put anything over them to stop them going off. This could be fatal.
Tenants often do not understand why a smoke alarm is beeping. They may ignore it or take it out. It is important they are aware of what they need to do. If they do hear a bleeping fire alarm, they should be informing you. Make sure that your fire alarms are up to date and they have not expired. You may find that often fire alarms are beyond their date.
Why not get a quote from us for your insurance to make sure that you are covered for all eventualities.