Residents offered safety tips by West Sussex firefighters

Fire services are urging everyone in the Observer area to stay warm and safe this winter as temperatures continue to plummet.

Jackie Boyle, West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service’s Community Risk Reduction Officer, said: “With the onset of the extreme cold, many of us are spending more time indoors keeping as warm as possible. Understandably, some people may be turning to extra heat sources like electric blankets and portable heaters to keep out the winter chill, but these bring with them an increased risk of fire in your home.”

“We recommend people take a few simple precautions to ensure they stay safe as well as warm during this cold snap. Older residents can be particularly vulnerable in cold weather, so it’s especially important for friends, relatives and neighbours to keep an eye out for them.”

Firefighters are also reminding people of the dangers that lurk on frozen lakes, ponds and streams.

We know areas of frozen water can be inviting, especially for children, but while it may look safe, there is no way of knowing how thick the ice is or whether it will hold your weight, so it’s best to simply stay clear of it. It’s really important for parents to explain to their children the dangers of playing or skating on frozen water.

“For dog owners the safest option is to keep your dogs on a lead so they can’t run out onto the ice. If you do see an animal in difficulty, don’t attempt to rescue it yourself - if the ice is too thin to support a dog’s weight, it certainly won’t support yours - so call 999 and let us deal with it.”

West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service offers the following advice to residents to reduce the risk of fire:

Fire and heaters:

. Switch heaters off if you are not in the room and check they are off before you go to bed

. Keep heaters well away from anything that could catch light like curtains or furnishings and never use them for drying clothes

. Do not use portable heaters where they may be knocked over

. If you plan to use an open fire make sure you have your chimney professionally swept and cleaned

. If you are using an open fire always use a fire guard to protect against flying sparks from hot embers

. Make sure embers are properly put out before leaving the house or going to bed

Electric blankets:

. Never use hot water bottles in the same bed as an electric blanket

. Unplug blankets before you get into bed, unless they have a thermostat control for safe all-night use.

. Don’t leave electric blankets folded as this damages the internal wiring

. Have your blanket checked regularly by a qualified electrician and always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines regarding their use and maintenance

Protect yourself:

. A smoke alarm can only alert you to the danger of a fire if it is working - so test it weekly!

. You may be eligible for a free Home Fire Safety Check - call 0800 3286487 to find out more

. In the event of a fire - get out, stay out and call 999

For some simple things you can do to keep warm and make the best use of your heating at home you can visit www.direct.gov.uk