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At 9.45pm on Thursday (2 June 2022), over 1,500 beacons are expected to be lit throughout the United Kingdom to mark the first time that a sovereign has marked a Platinum Jubilee.

The beacons will enable individuals, communities and organisations to pay tribute as part of the official Platinum Jubilee Weekend celebrations, which run from Thursday 2 to Sunday 5 June.

We’d like to take the opportunity to wish everyone in Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes a Happy Platinum Jubilee, and also to encourage those organising or hosting beacons to follow some key safety advice to ensure everyone can celebrate safely.

https://bucksfire.gov.uk/safety-category/jubilee-safety/

“We hope people enjoy themselves as we unite to celebrate The Queens’ Platinum Jubilee, but we are also keen to ensure that everyone celebrates safely and minimises the risk of fire to property, businesses or local people whilst doing so.

“If you are responsible for hosting a beacon in your community, please follow the guidance set out, to ensure the event is remembered for the right reasons.”

Community Safety Manager, Joanne Cook – May 2022

The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Beacons 2022 (queensjubileebeacons.com) outlines everything you may need to know regarding the celebrations, including information on the different types of beacons and how to stay safe from fire.

Our advice is:

  • If you are hosting your own private beacon, make sure the structure and base are stable and located away from fences, hedges or sheds.
  • Only suitable materials are burnt – do not use an accelerant on a fire already lit.
  • Do not light a beacon in very high winds.
  • Do not hang bunting or decorations in an area where they may fall onto or be affected by a beacon.
  • Keep children and pets away from the beacon.
  • Keep a bucket of water or sand nearby for emergencies.
  • Remember, embers will stay hot for a long time after the flames have been extinguished, ensure children and pets are kept away from them and that they are not placed in a bin or disposed of on a compost heap until they are completely cool.
  • If you think a beacon or fire is dangerously out of control, do not attempt to tackle it yourself, call 999.

Joanne added:

You may see firefighters attending local street events and celebrations throughout the area while on duty. We look forward to celebrating with you, and ultimately we want everyone to be able to celebrate safely”.

Some people may be considering using fireworks or bonfires as part of their celebration. If that’s you, please:

  • Ensure they are lit at arms length.
  • Never return to lit fireworks – even if a lit firework has not gone off, it has the potential to!
  • Ensure people stand well back.
  • Fabric, paper and plastic materials used for bunting, costumes and table decorations are likely to be flammable, so please keep them well away from anything that has been lit.
  • Keep pets safely indoors.

Due to the unpredictability of where sky lanterns will land, and the potential for them to start fires on other peoples’ property, we are keen to discourage people from lighting them.

We have provided links from this page to our safety tips for anyone who is considering using any of the following to help mark the Platinum Jubilee:

  • Beacons
  • Fireworks
  • Sky lanterns
  • Barbecues
  • Bonfires

An online toolkit is also available to help you plan and celebrate:  The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee 2022

With low seasonal temperatures, many people are tempted to make use of their log burner, woodburning stove, open fire, or kitchen range to help generate a cosy atmosphere.

Following three recent incidents, firefighters are keen to remind those with working chimneys or stoves of some simple safety tips which could help avoid the flames spreading further than the fireplace.

Firefighters were called out on Sunday (23 January 2022) to tackle a fire in the roof of a home in Weedon, which had started from embers left in a wood burning stove. The day before (Saturday 22 January 2022) crews had responded to chimney fires in South Heath and in Downley.

Joanne Cook, head of Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service’s Community Safety Team, said:

“Open fires can generate a warm cosy glow in the home, so it is understandable that those with working chimneys and stoves would choose to make use of them at this time of year. However, this weekend’s incidents highlight the risks that they can bring.

“We are keen to raise awareness of safety advice which relates specifically to woodburning stoves, as well as reminding people of the basic safety tips we offer to anyone considering lighting up a fire, stove or range.

Firefighters are encouraging people who have fitted their own smoke alarms to think about whether they have put them in the right places – and whether they need more of them.

Government figures show that although 90 per cent of homes in England have at least one smoke alarm, they don’t always alert occupants to a fire. 

The most common reasons a smoke alarm fails to activate are because of a missing or flat battery, or because the fire is outside its range.

Joanne Cook, head of Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service’s community safety team, said: “Early detection and warning are a vital part of keeping people safe from fire.

“We’re asking people to take a few seconds to think about where their smoke alarms are placed, and whether they need at least one more in their home to ensure they have the time to get out, stay out and call 999.

“You should make sure you have at least one smoke alarm on every level of your home, preferably in hallways and landings.  

“Placing smoke alarms near sleeping areas and in rooms where there are electrical appliances could give you the extra warning you need.

“It’s also important to remember that smoke alarms don’t last forever. The power might work, but the detection mechanism deteriorates with time, so whether they are battery operated or wired to the mains, to work at their best they should be replaced every 10 years.”

On average there are 11 electrical fires in the home every day in England – Electrical Fire Safety Week 2021 runs between 22 and 28 November.

Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service has attended two incidents involving electrical household items catching fire during Electrical Fire Safety Week 2021. This has prompted a safety message to help others reduce the risk of undetected electrical fires breaking out in their homes.

Firefighters from High Wycombe and Beaconsfield were called to Crown Lane Marlow, at 5.11pm on Monday (22 November), after a smell of burning was detected coming from a washing machine.

Just eight minutes later, crews responded to a call to a fridge on fire, this time located in a garage which was attached to a house in Wyndham Avenue, High Wycombe.

Joanne Cook, Community Safety and Safeguarding Manager, said: “These incidents were unrelated, however both occurred during the daytime where they could be quickly detected and the fire and rescue service called.

“Although fires originating from electrical appliances in Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes are in line with the national average, the number of daytime incidents peak between 4pm and 5pm when a greater number of household appliances such as washing machines, dishwashers and tumble dryers, are in use.

“However we are also aware that sometimes people set these sort of electrical appliances to operate overnight, or leave them on while they are out. If an incident occurs in these situations, it can take longer to be noticed, and in the worst cases the effects can be devastating for residents and homeowners.

“When we looked at our incident data for fires involving electrical items where the fire has spread beyond the appliance, the most common time period was between 10pm and midnight, possibly where people have set their household appliances to operate and then gone to bed.”

Please ensure your chimney is in good condition and is regularly swept.

A blocked or defective chimney can cause carbon monoxide poisoning as well as a fire. So regular inspection and cleaning of chimney flues can help to identify and eliminate issues before they become a problem.

Make sure your chimney is swept regularly by a certified chimney sweep. The recommended frequencies depend upon the fuel you burn.

As a quick guide, recommended frequencies are:

  • Smokeless coal – at least once a year
  • Wood – up to four times a year
  • Bituminous coal – twice a year
  • Oil or gas – once a year (refer to the Gas Safe Register for gas)

It is also important to have working smoke alarms in your home and that you test them once a month.

If you are using an open fire or stove it is also advisable to invest in a carbon monoxide detector, as early warning can make the difference.

With the start of a new year, Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service is issuing a timely reminder to ensure not only domestic property, but also commercial premises are adequately protected from fire by the appropriate, maintained and tested fire alarm system.

Group Commander Phill Mould, Head of Protection, who leads our Business Fire Safety team, said:

“We have attended many incidents in commercial premises over the years that have led to devastating effects for the business that operate from them. Sadly, many businesses are unable to recover from the effects left by a significant fire and therefore never reopen.  

“We understand that business owners currently have lots to consider to ensure business continuity, and we ask that fire safety is at the forefront of their minds.”

“A maintained and tested fire alarm system gives an early audible warning to anyone inside the premises to escape in the event of a fire. With current restrictions meaning many businesses are empty or having to close temporarily, a maintained fire alarm system that is connected to an alarm receiving centre (ARC) can provide the early warning necessary for the fire service to attend the premises and tackle the fire and mitigate the damage.”

Under Article 8 of The Regulatory Reform Order 2005 (The Order), Duty to take general fire precautions, commercial premises must have an allocated responsible person. The responsible person should ensure the fire alarm system is tested weekly by using an alternative manual call point every time. 

The results from the test should be recorded. British Standard BS 5839 states that a fire alarm system should be maintained twice yearly by a competent fire alarm engineer.

How to test your fire alarm system in commercial premises

  • If you have an alarm receiving centre that receives any activation signals for your fire alarm system, be sure to notify it first before the test. Sometimes you may need a password. This will reduce the likelihood of the test leading to the fire and rescue service being called. 
  • Remember to notify the alarm receiving centre once the test is complete. We have found that a notice on the fire alarm panel is useful to remind people.
  • Place your fire alarm system into ‘test mode’ on the panel if this is available. Using a predetermined programme to ensure a different manual call point is tested each week, place the test key into the manual call point to activate the alarm. Check that the correct zone in relation to the manual call point location is shown on the fire alarm panel (it is good practice to have a zone map placed next to your fire alarm panel).
  • An audible alarm must be heard throughout all parts of the premises covered by the alarm. Using other staff including fire wardens is helpful for this.
  • Any associated systems such as door hold-open devices should operate correctly.
  • A check of the fire alarm panel should not show any faults or inconsistencies. Any faults should be reported to the maintenance provider for immediate investigation.
  • The fire alarm panel should be returned to its ‘normal operating mode’.
  • Any results from the test must be recorded. Once the alarm receiving centre has been notified, the fire alarm test is now complete.

How to reduce false alarms

  • Ensure the responsible person for the premises completes the required weekly fire alarm test or allocates a competent person to complete it.
  • Contact the alarm receiving centre before and on completion of any fire alarm tests being carried out.
  • Your fire risk assessment should review your fire alarm system including its types, components and coverage. We recommend that should you need help with your fire risk assessment, you select someone that is third-party credited. More advice can be found here: https://www.nationalfirechiefs.org.uk/Finding-fire-risk-assessor
      
  • Maintain clean and dust-free premises.
  • Consider seeking guidance from your fire alarm system provider if contractors are carrying out work on site that produces fumes, particles, or dust.
  • Ensure staff have an awareness of the fire alarm system and actions that can trigger a false alarm.
  • Consult with the fire alarm provider if there is any change in use with the premises.

A fully maintained fire alarm system will help to reduce the likelihood of false alarm activations within commercial premises. 

Group Commander Mould added:

“Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service is one of the few fire and rescue services that continues to respond to all automatic fire alarm signals.

“When we attend, the officer in charge will investigate and check that there is no fire situation and give appropriate advice.

“Where there is no fire situation, these alarm signals are deemed as false alarms, resulting in what we term as Unwanted Fire Signals. This places an unnecessary demand on a fire and rescue service’s resources and has the potential that a fire appliance will be unable to attend a real emergency.”

It is understandable from time to time that a fire alarm may produce a false alarm activation. However, if false alarms become a frequent occurrence with your fire alarm system, people may become complacent and not take the appropriate action when a genuine activation occurs.

“Through work carried out by our Business Fire Safety Team, we have seen the number of false alarms and unwanted fire signals reduce. However, we would encourage businesses to continue to support us and ensure that their fire alarm system is maintained and serviced twice yearly by a competent fire alarm engineer.”

For further information and FAQs on fire alarm systems, please follow the links below:

Video: How to carry out a fire alarm test

Fire alarm FAQ video – English voice-over

Fire alarm FAQ video – Polish voice-over

Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service Safety Advice Hub

National Fire Chiefs Council: The Causes of False Fire Alarms in Buildings

Once again, many businesses will have closed their doors to the public, either by choice or necessity, in the continued fight against Coronavirus (COVID-19).

With premises closed, or unable to operate in the usual way, ensuring their safety is really important to us. A fire in an unattended commercial property could have devastating repercussions for the business, the local community and any residents in the same building or nearby.

Group Commander Phill Mould, who leads our business safety teams, said:

 “At the moment many businesses are not operating in their usual way. It is possible that their premises aren’t being attended by staff as regularly as they would normally.

“In the most extreme cases some commercial or business premises could have been unattended since March when the first national restrictions were implemented.”

It is important to ensure safety and maintain preventative measures for these premises while the country responds to COVID-19. It could be as simple as a quick visit to check that commercial smoke detection and alarm systems are still working.

Group Commmander Mould added:

“We are asking all business owners and the public to join forces, and help keep the commercial premises in Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes safe, so these important elements of our community are in a good position to open once restrictions allow.”

Sharing burn awareness information is even more important to firefighters in Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes this year – as many of our typical autumn celebrations are likely to look slightly different.

With many public organised events being cancelled this year, celebrating safely at home, is going to be a key message from emergency services.

Over the coming weeks you will see lots of messages from us, as well as from your local authority which will be keeping you up to date on the latest COVID-19 control measures in your area.

Community Safety Manager, Joanne Cook, said: “Candles and fireworks both have the potential to cause burns, and are common features through the late autumn period, often being used during events around Halloween (Saturday 31 October), Bonfire night (Thursday 5 November) and Diwali (Saturday 14 November).

“Being burned or scalded can mean years of painful treatment and, in the worst cases, hundreds of operations to release the scar tissue. While things like candles and fireworks have a high profile at this time of year, it can be easy to overlook how simple measures can help reduce the risk of getting burnt when distracted in the home.”

Burns can also be caused by more standard household items, such as hot drinks, bathing or washing up water, irons, hair straighteners, and even some household cleaners.

Joanne added: “Many people don’t realise that children and older people are the most vulnerable to burns and scalds, and the majority of injuries occur as a result of an accident that could so easily have been prevented.

“We are also keen to help raise awareness that however the burn occurs simple, quick and appropriate treatment can make a massive difference to someone’s life. Please keep reading this item to find out the best way to treat a burn or scald, from our colleagues at the specialist burns unit at Stoke Mandeville”

Joanne’s safety tips to help avoid a burn or scald in the home:

DO

  • Install smoke alarms on each floor and test regularly
  • Keep hot drinks out of reach of babies and young children
  • Make and practise fire escape plans with the whole family
  • Run COLD water first in the bath or sink before adding hot water – test the temperature
  • Install thermostatic mixing valves in all hot water outlets
  • Keep saucepans at the back of the stove, NOT near the front – turn handles to the back
  • Keep kettles, irons, hair straighteners or wires out of reach
  • Keep secure fire screens in front of open fires, heaters and radiators
  • Store matches and lighters out of reach
  • Store chemicals, cleaners and acids out of reach

DON’T

  • Drink hot drinks while nursing/holding a baby or child
  • Put a baby or child into a bath or sink until the water has been tested
  • Warm baby bottles in the microwaves
  • Leave hair straighteners unattended
  • Allow children near BBQs or garden chemicals
  • Allow children near fireworks
  • Leave children unattended in the kitchen, bathroom or near fires and heaters

Prevention of hot drink burns is easy using simple SafeTea rules:

  • Keep hot drinks out of reach of young children
  • Never carry a hot drink while carrying a baby
  • Never pass a hot drink over the heads of young children
  • Ways to keep hot drinks away from children:
  • Place hot drinks at the back of the kitchen surface
  • Don’t place a hot drink on a table cloth or cloth that hangs down so that a small child can reach and pull it down
  • Make a safe place . . . a SafeTea zone for hot drinks . . . in your home where you and members of the family and visitors can keep hot drinks from young children
  • Avoid drinking hot drinks around small children
  • Always remind visitors to your home to ‘Keep hot drinks out of reach of the young children

Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service is pleased to be able to add its support to National Burn Awareness Day, which helps draw attention to the fact that prevention and good first aid are key to reducing the number of burns and scalds occurring in the UK every single day.

A burn injury is for life. This image outlines the numbers of children and adults scalded or burnt  in 2019

Consultant Plastic and Burns Surgeons, Miss Alexandra Murray and Professor Fadi Issa, who both work at Stoke Mandeville Burns Unit, are keen to help highlight the importance of being burns aware.

Miss Murray said: “It’s a great time of year to raise awareness of the potential for burns, as candles, bonfires and fireworks are often at the forefront of people minds. However, burns or scalds can happen at any time and correct, swift treatment can make a big difference“.

Professor Issa said: “While anyone can suffer a burn or scald, there are some themes we see quite regularly.

– In children the principal cause of burns is scalds from things like hot cups of tea or coffee, hot baths, and contact burns for example from touching hobs.

– In adults it is often flame or flash burns from people setting things on fire with accelerants, or kitchen accidents while cooking.

– In the older age group we see quite a few hot bath burns or contact burns from radiators, particularly in those with mobility issues.

“During the covid peak we saw quite a few burns resulting from steam inhalation accidents in virtually all age groups.”

If burnt you should:

  • Promptly cool the burn under cool running water for at least twenty minutes
  • After the burn has been cooled, cover it with cling film or a clean plastic bag
  • Do not use any creams/lotions/toothpaste
  • Seek medical advice and call 999 if necessary
  • Always seek medical advice for a baby or child that has been burned

Useful links: