How to fire­proof your home

Lesotho Times - - Property -

AS South­ern Africa con­tin­ues to ex­pe­ri­ence its worst drought in decades, run­away fires are tak­ing an in­creas­ing toll on peo­ple, an­i­mals and prop­er­ties around the coun­try, and farm­ers and foresters are not the only ones who need to be bet­ter pre­pared.

Ex­tremely dry con­di­tions and wacky weather pat­terns have proven to be an omi­nous com­bi­na­tion this sea­son as wild­fires pose a threat through­out the coun­try.

But while it’s im­pos­si­ble to com­pletely en­sure one’s safety, firescap­ing can help lessen the dan­gers, ex­perts say.

While home­own­ers should start by elim­i­nat­ing over­grown yards, they can re­place highly flammable plants and trees, such as eu­ca­lyp­tus and palm trees, with veg­e­ta­tion less likely to burn such as ocotillo, Calla lilies and more. In many cases, the fire-re­sis­tant plants are also drought-tol­er­ant, which helps with wa­ter con­ser­va­tion ef­forts.

Then com­bine that ef­fort with some cre­ative hard­scapes, non­flammable fenc­ing and in­or­ganic mulches, and prop­erty own­ers can de­crease the chance of fire trans­mis­sion from any source. Ac­cord­ing to Richard Gray, CEO of Har­courts Real Es­tate, there is much that home­own­ers can do to pro­tect their own fam­i­lies and prop­er­ties.

He says in more re­mote ar­eas where there is a se­ri­ous dan­ger of veld fires due to the dry con­di­tions, home­own­ers should start by reg­u­larly cut­ting back and re­mov­ing all grass, trees branches and other com­bustible ma­te­rial to cre­ate a ‘safety zone’ of about 20m to 30m around the home.

“They should also try to have a ded­i­cated fire­hose that reaches to ev­ery part of their prop­erty and is per­ma­nently con­nected to a re­li­able out­side wa­ter source such as a dam or rain­wa­ter tank with a pump, and en­sure that ev­ery­one on the prop­erty knows where it is kept and how it works.

“If the roof is thatched, wet­ting it thor­oughly is the best way to pre­vent it from catch­ing alight dur­ing a fire. A rooftop drencher sys­tem is very ef­fec­tive, but fail­ing that, and if you have time, it should be thor­oughly doused with a hose.”

Gray says what is most im­por­tant, how­ever, is that ev­ery­one on the prop­erty un­der­stands the se­ri­ous dan­ger that veld fires pose, knows how to con­tact the lo­cal fire-fight­ing team and, es­pe­cially, has been taught the drill for get­ting out and away safely when an out-of-con­trol fire poses a sud­den threat.

“Sim­i­larly, if there is ad­vance warn­ing of fire spread­ing to the area and you are ad­vised to evac­u­ate your prop­erty, your first re­sponse should be to make sure that ev­ery­one is to­gether and wear­ing pro­tec­tive cloth­ing, that you have emer­gency sup­plies such as drink­ing wa­ter with you, and that you let some­one out­side the dan­ger area know that you are leav­ing and where you are plan­ning to go,” he says.

In more ur­banised ar­eas and in­for­mal set­tle­ments, Gray says the big­gest fire haz­ards are elec­tri­cal faults and open flames on can­dles, gas ap­pli­ances, paraf­fin stoves and cook­ing and braai fires. He says none of th­ese should ever be left unat­tended or used with­out adult su­per­vi­sion.

“Home­own­ers should al­ways en­sure that all open flames are ex­tin­guished be­fore ev­ery­one goes to sleep, that all gas cylin­ders used for cook­ing and other pur­poses are firmly turned off, and that paraf­fin stoves and heaters are prefer­ably re­moved out­doors,” says Gray.

“If there is an in­ter­nal fire­place or a coal stove on the prop­erty, home­own­ers must make sure the flue and chim­ney are kept in good re­pair, and that there is a fire­proof area in front of the fire­place so that hot em­bers that might fall from the grate can’t start a fire.”

Gray says since elec­tri­cal faults are also a ma­jor cause of home fires, home­own­ers should not for­get to check the state of the elec­tri­cal wiring reg­u­larly, en­sure that any frayed ap­pli­ance cords are re­placed and re­frain from over­load­ing plug sock­ets.

“Once again, though, what is most im­por- tant is to make sure that ev­ery­one in the fam­ily knows ex­actly what they should do to get out and stay safe if there is a fire,” he says. Think­ing ahead: Your exit plan

As with other things, the best motto is, “Be Pre­pared.” Pre­pare a floor plan of your home show­ing at least two ways out of each room. Sleep with your bed­room door closed. In the event of fire, it helps to hold back heat and smoke. But if a door feels hot, do not open it; es­cape through an­other door or win­dow. Agree on a fixed lo­ca­tion out-of-doors where fam­ily mem­bers are to gather for a head count. Stay to­gether away from the fire. Make cer­tain that no one goes back in­side the burn­ing build­ing. Check cor­ri­dors and stair­ways to make sure they are free of ob­struc­tions and com­bustibles. Elec­tri­cal haz­ards

Elec­tric­ity, the silent ser­vant, can be­come a silent as­sas­sin. It is bet­ter not to use ex­ten­sion cords. If you feel you must use one, make sure that it is not frayed or worn. Do not run it un­der a rug or twist it around a nail or hook. Never over­load a socket. In par­tic­u­lar, the use out­let ex­ten­sions that ac­com­mo­date sev­eral plugs, is strongly dis­cour­aged. Check pe­ri­od­i­cally for loose wall re­cep­ta­cles, loose wires, or loose light­ing fix­tures. Spark­ing means that you’ve waited too long. Al­low air space around the TV to pre­vent over­heat­ing. The same ap­plies to plugin ra­dios and stereo sets, and to pow­er­ful lamps. If a cir­cuit breaker trips or a fuse blows fre­quently, im­me­di­ately cut down on the num­ber of ap­pli­ances on that line. In many older homes, the ca­pac­ity of the wiring sys­tem has not kept pace with to­day’s mod­ern ap­pli­ances. Over­loaded elec­tri­cal sys­tems in­vite fire. Watch for th­ese over­load sig­nals: dim­ming lights when an ap­pli­ance goes on, a shrink­ing TV pic­ture, slow heat­ing ap­pli­ances, or fuses blow­ing fre­quently. Call a qual­i­fied elec­tri­cian to get ex­pert help. Kitchen

Care­less cook­ing is the num­ber one cause of res­i­den­tial fires. Never leave cook­ing unat­tended. It’s wise to have a fire ex­tin­guisher near the kitchen. Keep it 3 me­ters away from the stove on the exit side of the kitchen. Never pour wa­ter on a grease fire; turn off the stove and cover the pan with a lid, or close the oven door. Keep pot han­dles on the stove point­ing to the back, and al­ways watch young chil­dren in the kitchen. Don’t store items on the stove top, as they could catch fire. Keep kitchen ap­pli­ances clean and in good con­di­tion, and turn them off and dis­con­nect them when not in use. Don’t over­load kitchen elec­tri­cal out­lets and don’t use ap­pli­ances with frayed or cracked wires. Be sure your stove is not lo­cated un­der a win­dow in which cur­tains are hang­ing. Clean the ex­haust hood and duct over the stove reg­u­larly. and wipe up spilled grease as soon as the sur­face of the stove is cool. Op­er­ate your mi­crowave only when there is food in it. Chil­dren and grand­chil­dren Keep lighters and matches out of the reach of chil­dren. Never leave chil­dren unat­tended with fire or heaters. Chil­dren are nat­u­rally cu­ri­ous about fire, so keep an eye on them. But if a child re­peat­edly plays with fire or seems to have a mor­bid fas­ci­na­tion with fire, seek pro­fes­sional help at once. If young­sters live with you or stay overnight oc­ca­sion­ally, be sure that they know how to es­cape from ev­ery room and are part of your emer­gency exit plan. PETROL AND OTHER FLAMMABLE LIQ­UIDS Flammable liq­uids should be stored only in ap­proved safety con­tain­ers, and the con­tain­ers should be kept out­side the house and garage in a sep­a­rate stor­age shed. Fill up lawn equip­ment out­side, away from en­closed ar­eas and any source of sparks or heat. Start the equip­ment at least 3 me­ters from where you filled it with fuel. Don’t fill a hot lawn mower, let it cool first. Never clean floors or do other gen­eral clean­ing with petrol or flammable liq­uids. SMOK­ING

If you ac­tu­ally be­lieve that you’re im­mune from can­cer, heart dis­ease, em­phy­sema, and other ills, at least worry about burn­ing to death. Never smoke in bed. Don’t smoke when you are drink­ing or are ab­nor­mally tired. Use large, deep ash­trays, and empty them fre­quently. Never dump an ash­tray into the trash with­out wet­ting the butts and ashes first. — Prop­erty24/ru­ral­met­rosa

FIRE can cause many deaths and de­stroy homes es­pe­cially in in­for­mal set­tle­ments.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Lesotho

© PressReader. All rights reserved.