TEST YOUR SMOKE ALARM!!It all began when I was upstairs, getting ready for bed and the smoke alarm went off. I had been upstiars for a while and it's really hard to convey the feeling of dread when your smoke alarm goes off randomly and you know there is no innocent reason why. By the time I crossed the landing I knew something was very much amiss. A strong smell of burning chemicals met my nostrils, as I descended the stairs, having no idea what I was walking into. Was the house already ablaze? Was something about to explode? Initially I assumed the tumble dryer had overheated as, with a few different people using it, it wouldn't be beyond the realms of possibility that the filter hadn't been emptied properly or something. I turned it off and thought that would be the end of it, the smoke detector went quiet for a moment, but then it started again, and smoke began pouring out of the kitchen. I still couldn't tell where it was coming from, so I instinctively pushed the trip switch and cut off the electricity supply to all the circuits, hoping to stop whatever it was from continuing to overheat. With the lights now off, flames could be clearly seen inside and underneath the dishwasher, at which point I had no choice but to evacuate. My neighbours came in and managed to contain the fire with my fire blanket, and it was pretty much out by the time the fire brigade arrived. They removed the dishwasher outside and made everything safe, so the children could go back to bed. However, I couldn't help thinking; what if? What if I didn't have a reliable smoke alarm? What if it had spread before I had a chance to get everyone out? It takes an insanely short time for a fire to take hold and I can't help feeling we were extremely lucky to catch it early enough to minimise the damage and keep us all safe. There are two things I will always remember from this situation, and it would really mean a lot to me if you could remember and act on them too.
1. Always test your smoke alarm. If it is battery powered, change the batteries twice a year. When the clocks go back makes it easier to remember. If we hadn't had one, this story would have ended very differently.
2. Never go to bed, or go out, and leave your appliances, such as dishwasher, tumble dryer, washing machine, etc, unattended. It's just not worth it. Get organised and keep your family safe.
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This has been your Fire Safety briefing. I thank you for listening.