RBFRS encourages residents to have fun and stay safe when celebrating this autumn

Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service (RBFRS) is encouraging residents to celebrate safely this autumn.

The top three tips from RBFRS are to buy products from a reputable retailer, check for the relevant safety standards on the packaging and consider the safety of yourselves and children and whether there are any safer alternatives to candles when planning celebrations for Halloween, bonfire night or Diwali.

Jess James, Group Manager Protection said: “We want to ensure that those who enjoy celebrating Halloween are able to do so safely. You should only buy fancy dress costumes from reputable retailers and always check the label – clothing will always burn if in contact with naked flames.

“Instead of using candles to decorate a pumpkin, why not choose battery powered LED tea lights. These are much safer and reduce the risk of burns, which can last a lifetime.”

Dressing up costumes are currently classed as toys under British Toy Safety Regulations, meaning they are less fire resistant than children’s nightclothes and assume a child is able to move away from or drop a burning toy.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) introduced more stringent flammability tests and labelling in 2017 for these costumes, which were endorsed by National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) and others such as Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) and the Children’s Burns Trust. Many reputable high street retailers and children’s costume manufacturers in the UK signed up to this more robust voluntary code.

Rick Hylton, NFCC Home Safety Lead commented:

“Although instances of these costumes catching fire are rare, when they do take place the injuries sustained can be catastrophic. This is why NFCC want to see improvements to regulations and why we continue to work with Fire and Rescue Services across the UK to encourage people not to use naked flames especially near children.

NFCC would like to see BRC’s voluntary code acting as a benchmark for legislation so both the fabric and construction of these items are as safe as possible.”

If you do find yourself in a situation where yours or a child’s clothes are caught on fire, remember to stop, drop and roll until the fire is out, then cool, call and cover. Cool the burn with running cold tap water for 20 minutes and remove all clothing and jewellery from the area (unless it is melted or firmly stuck to the wound), call for help, and cover the burn with cling film or a sterile, non-fluffy dressing or cloth.

Costumes

  • Make sure that when purchasing or using costumes and masks that they are labelled as flame-resistant.
  • Costumes should comply with EN71 – a European-wide standard, which tests for flammability. It should also have a CE mark, which means the product complies with European health and safety requirements.
  • Don’t use flammable materials to make home-made costumes.
  • Keep children away from naked flames at all times.
  • If your clothing catches fire remember to stop, drop and roll and then cool, call and cover.

Stop – don’t run, you’ll make the flames worse. 
Drop – lie down on the ground at once. 
Roll – in heavy fabric or a fire blanket to smother the flames, though just on the ground will help.  
Cool the burn with running cold tap water for 20 minutes and remove all clothing and jewellery (unless it is melted or firmly stuck to the wound). 
Call for help – 999, 111 or your local GP for advice 
Cover with cling film or a sterile, non-fluffy dressing or cloth. Make sure that the patient is kept warm. 

Candles

  • Make sure that when in use, candles are secured in a proper holder and away from materials that may catch fire – like curtains.
  • Children should not be left alone with lit candles.
  • Put candles out when you leave the room, and make sure they’re put out completely at night.
  • Keep the wax pool clear of wick trimmings, matches and debris at all times.
  • Burn candles in a well-ventilated room, but avoid drafts, vents or air currents. This will help prevent rapid or uneven burning, sooting and excessive dripping.
  • Trim the wick to ¼ inch each time before burning. Long or crooked wicks can cause uneven burning, dripping or flaring.
  • Don’t move candles once they are lit.
  • Follow the manufacturer's recommendations on burn time and proper use.
  • Do not burn several candles close together as this might cause flaring (mainly with tea-lights).
  • Use a snuffer or a spoon to put out candles. It’s safer than blowing them out when sparks can fly.

Lanterns

  • Think carefully about the fire risks if making homemade lanterns. Place them securely in a purpose-built candle holder away from draughts. Flickering LED candles are safer than real candles.
  • Never allow small children to carry lanterns lit by naked flames. The handle could become hot or the child could slip.
  • Lanterns should never be made from plastic bottles or other plastic containers.
  • Floating lanterns are a fire hazard but also pose a risk to livestock, agriculture, camping activities, thatched properties and hazardous material sites.
  • Ensure that the candles are extinguished completely at night or before you go out.

Fireworks

  • Only buy fireworks marked BS 7114 or with a CE mark – this shows that the firework meets British or European safety standards (a reputable shop will know this).
  • Don’t drink alcohol if setting off fireworks.
  • Keep fireworks in a suitable box.
  • Preparation is key: make sure you set a safe perimeter away from people and property and keep a bucket of water nearby
  • Never go back to a lit firework – even if it hasn’t gone off it could still explode.
  • Always supervise children around fireworks and never give sparklers to a child under five.

Bonfires

  • Build bonfires well away from buildings, fences, trees and garden structures.
  • Never burn aerosols, tyres, canisters or anything containing foam or paint – many produce toxic fumes and some containers may explode causing injury.
  • Don’t use petrol or paraffin to get the fire going as it could quickly get out of control.
  • Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose nearby in case of emergencies.
  • Never leave a bonfire unattended and keep children and pets away from it.

For more information on how to stay safe in your home whilst celebrating visit rbfrs.co.uk/your-safety.