Don't drown in toxic smoke

A Christmas Tree on Fire

Drowning in the toxic smoke of a house fire is the risk you take if you do not have a working smoke alarm. That is the stark message Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service is delivering to people in the run-up to Christmas, when there are more potential fire hazards such as fairy lights and candles, and people removing batteries from smoke alarms to use in presents.

Read our top 10 safety tips and watch the Fire Kills advertisement.

In 2008, there were 33,000 accidental house fires across the UK* (840 of which were in Tyne and Wear), 10% of which occurred in the run up to Christmas Day.

Chief Fire Officer Tom Capeling, Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, says: "The risk of fire in the home is an issue all year round but people are particularly vulnerable at Christmas when they may have unsafe electrical decorations or unattended candles, or may cook while or after drinking alcohol.

"People also vastly underestimate the deadly strength of toxic smoke and overestimate how long they have to escape should a fire break out. The reality is that two or three breaths of smoke in a fire can render a person unconscious. People think that if they are asleep when a fire breaks out, they will be woken up by the smell of smoke or be alerted by someone else, when in reality, without a smoke alarm, they may not wake up at all."

A recent survey** by the national Fire Kills campaign found that:

- 43% of people in the North East believe they could survive for more than two minutes in a smoke filled room.

- 46% think they would be alerted to a fire by the smell of the smoke.

- 19% believe a pet (e.g. their dog barking), or someone else, would alert them to a house fire.

- 87% own smoke alarms but 65% admit to not testing them weekly.

Tom adds: "Christmas should be a time for celebration rather than tragedy. We want everyone to have a happy and safe Christmas this year so we are urging people to take fire safety seriously. Get smoke alarms installed, test them weekly, reduce or remove any fire hazards and plan your escape route in case of a fire."

Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service's seasonal message is supported by a national TV advertising campaign by Fire Kills which shows how two to three breaths of toxic smoke will affect your ability to breathe, a sensation similar to drowning, and can make you unconscious.

* Fire Statistics Monitor Q3 2008-09

** Regional statistics from a survey conducted via One Poll on behalf of the Fire Kills campaign amongst a nationally representative sample of 3577 adults aged 16+ in England, from 11-15 September 2009

Request a Home Safety Check

To request a Home Safety Check in your household, complete the Home Safety Check Request Form, alternatively you can contact - 0800 0327777.