The primary purpose of any fire safety advice is to protect life. The advice given here is provided by the Department for Communities and Local Government, Crown copyright 2005. For additional information visit: www.firekills.gov.uk
What you should do:
- Fit smoke alarms: where you can hear them, check the batteries every week & make sure batteries are changed annually.
- Make an escape plan: all family members & visitors need to be aware of the plan; it should be displayed in a prominent position and reviewed regularly.
- Know where the keys are kept: Door and window keys may need to be located in a hurry. Agree with everyone in the household where keys are to be kept & keep them there.
- Keep escape routes clear: The best escape route is the normal way in and out of the house, choose a second route in case this one becomes blocked by fire. Keep routes clear of obstructions.
- Pre-prepare a list of valuables and their location: a thatch fire will take a long time to bring under control the fire service is good at salvage. Prepare a salvage plan in advance.
In a fire
- Keep calm & act quickly: Alert everyone – get everyone out!
- Don’t waste time investigating: thatch fires are misleading don’t try and tackle it yourself.
- Call 999: don’t go back inside wait outside for the fire and rescue service.
- Shut doors as you leave.
If there is a fire……
In these times of fear of crime it is easy to be very security conscious with all doors and windows securely locked. Security systems should not compromise safety. All family members should know the escape plan, where keys to locked doors are kept and how to open doors and windows for escape purposes in any moment of crisis. Planning ahead is essential.
Fire prevention officers understand thatch. Every thatched property is different, Fire Officers can advise you on the best precautions for individual situations do register your details with your local fire and rescue service. The Service can be prepared in advance to know what to expect for your property and will then be in the best position to manage the situation.
To avoid injury and to do the best for you and your property, fire fighters need to know in advance:
- The exact location of your property, particularly if you live in a rural area and the property is isolated.
- The exact location of the nearest usable water supply.
- The history of the property and the likely volume of thatch they are going to have to deal with.
- Location of any gas bottles.
- The structural stability of any chimneys.
- If your property is protected by fire board, beneath the thatch.
The officer in charge will decide a strategy based on local conditions. Water damage from fire-fighting can be worse that fire damage. Firemen are good at salvage; decide beforehand are which your most precious possessions and where they are located. Whatever happens, be prepared for a mess!
Success or failure
Once alight, thatch fires are almost impossible to extinguish; the success or failure in controlling a fire is early detection, and an advance understanding by the Fire and Rescue Service of the roof structure. A thatch fire requires a long time to bring under control; and this can allow fire crews time to remove possessions. In assessing the aftermath following a thatch fire, a successful outcome for fire fighters is not too much water damage, a part of the roof still in place and most of the personal effects carefully salvaged. Because burning thatch is so difficult to control owners are advised to be prepared for a serious mess. Fire-fighting will be based on damage limitation.
If safety and circumstances allow, fire fighters will endeavour to cut a break ahead of the spreading fire. Because the fire can develop unseen, and deep in the thatch it is difficult to estimate exactly where to cut a break for it to be effective. Pouring water on a burning thatched roof has little cooling effect towards fighting the fire; thatch is designed to shed water and water will penetrate less than 3 centimetres.
In the majority of cases after a serious thatch fire, families can expect to be in alternative accommodation for a minimum of a year and on most occasions for very much longer.