Muscat: Experts are calling on residents to take all measures to protect their homes from fires after two houses in Nizwa went up in flames in a span of just two days.
On Wednesday morning, three people, including two Omanis, were injured after a fire broke out in a house. The incident came to light just one day after a fatal residential blaze led to the death of three children and one adult.
Read here: Three children, one adult die in Oman house fire
Speaking exclusively to the Times of Oman, Paul Mirley, a fire safety expert and Engineering Consultant at Ahmed Said Engineering Consultancy, said, “We all know that fire kills. Most of us know that smoke is the main killer. Some of us think fires only happen only to other people, they don’t. A little preparation can save your life and save your family.”
“First of all, we should make plans well in advance, we should not wait for a fire.”
“Most people that die in house fires die in their beds. Smoke contains carbon monoxide, which is very toxic and will kill people without waking them; therefore, we need something that will alert us to a fire in the middle of the night, such as a smoke alarm. In the UK, people have been installing smoke alarms in their houses for some 40 years. They are such a success that the UK Fire Service now provides and fits them for free, and they are a requirement in all new houses. This practice is common across Europe and the USA.”
Also read: Three injured as house in Oman goes up in flames
‘Get a smoke alarm’
“So, please get a smoke alarm, or two or three. As a minimum, the smoke alarm has to tell you that smoke has entered your escape route; so, will you be able to hear it? In large houses you may need one at each level on the stairs and you may need to link them so they all go off simultaneously. Check them weekly, and replace the batteries when needed.”
According to the Public Authority for Civil Defence and Ambulance (PACDA), 4,157 fires took place in Oman in 2016, a sharp rise from 2015 (3,520).
Mirley also detailed the importance of having an evacuation plan.
“A smoke alarm will only let you know if there is a problem. So what will you do if the smoke alarm goes off in the middle of the night, and there is a fire? This is why you need an evacuation plan before the fire. First of all, not everyone may hear the smoke alarm, especially children, so you have to wake everyone up.”
“That is the first part of your plan; now think of scenarios applicable to your house and ask yourself some questions: what do we do if we cannot get to the main entrance? Do we have an alternative route? Do I need a key to unlock the door? Is there a refuge from where we can be rescued? Does anyone need assistance? What do we do if I cannot get to the main entrance? What if I’m not there, does anyone know what to do? How can we alert the fire service?”
“Ask yourself these questions, provide the answers and this will lead you to your plan, but make sure you have considered all realistic scenarios and keep it flexible. Involve the family, let them contribute and make sure they understand. Practice it regularly. Do it in the dark. Change the scenario. Imagine there’s smoke.”
Mirley agreed, however, that prevention is better than cure.
“The planning exercise should also help you identify the fire risks in your home. There are two areas to consider: how a fire will start and how a fire will spread.”
“Make sure all electrical equipment is switched off at night, if you can. Obviously, refrigerators and the air conditioner will be left on: how confident are you that they are in good condition? Is the fuse/MCB (micro circuit breaker) rating correct? Does your electrical system have an RCD (residual current device)? These devices are designed to electrically isolate equipment in the event of a fault.”
“Are there smokers in the house? Make sure that all cigarettes etc. are out and disposed of into the bin outside, and don’t have the bin close to windows or doors either. If a fire does start, can I confine it to the one room and protect my escape route? Close all the doors at night. Fires happen, but it is not acceptable for people to die in a fire. We can do something about it, can’t we?” he asked.