11 May Fire: how safe is my park home?
By James Sumner, Executive Director at Warfield Park, Bracknell
This article was published in Park Homes and Holiday Living magazine on 3rd August 2022 – it can be viewed here.
It is everyone’s nightmare: a fire in their home – a fear perhaps exacerbated by Grenfell and the horrors that unfolded there. In recent years, however, the number of incidents of fires in homes have actually declined. If the statistics for 2016 are compared with 2021, there has been a drop from 38,824 to 33,180, a 15 per cent fall. If we make a similar comparison to 2006, the drop is even more stark: there were 55,857 dwelling fires in 2005/06, a drop of some 41 per cent.
The leading cause of fires are appliances and equipment, especially those that generate heat such as cookers, dryers, and heaters, or those which have prolonged use, such as computers and fans. The second and third leading causes are candles and holiday decorations. Smoking has consistently fallen as a cause of fires, largely in line with its decline in popularity.
Although all homes are far safer today than they were in the past, and there are also more reliable smoke and heat detectors to protect us, care still needs to be taken.
Are park homes more at risk than other homes? The answer is unquestionably ’no’. The causes of fires in park homes are the same as any other home: accidents happen and faults occur.
Factors affecting fire safety in park homes are threefold: the construction materials and methods used to build the home, safety in the home itself, and then safety across the park as a whole.
Park homes generally use different materials from traditional homes, and are built in a different way, being factory constructed and then transported to site. That said, new modern methods of construction for homes use increasingly similar materials and with modular construction in factories, the two are getting ever closer together. The predominance of wood and insulation materials, whatever the construction process, will always presents a fire risk, even though fire retardant barriers are used.
Park homes are constructed to British Standard BS3632 which sets various standards for their design and construction, including fire safety. Ensuring your park home has been constructed to BS3632 will give you the confidence that appropriate standards have been met.
Safety in the home
Apart from the inherent safety of the materials used, all new park homes have at least one smoke alarm, and many have more. In 2019/20, 91 per cent of households had a working smoke alarm, this is three per cent higher than 2014/15 and 15 per cent higher than 2001.
Smoke alarms provide crucial early warning of a fire allowing residents time to react, especially important when the household is sleeping. Having a working smoke alarm reduces the chance of death by around half. It is therefore vital that smoke alarms are checked regularly and batteries replaced when needed. Mains-wired alarms are better and have a lower failure rate.
There are a variety of other steps that residents can take to ensure their safety:
- Buy a fire extinguisher and keep it inside where it is visible and handy. A 1kg or 2kg dry-powder extinguisher can be used to tackle most types of fires. Familiarise yourself with how to use it. Also, purchase a fire blanket and keep it near the cooker – this is most effective on fat or oil fires.
- Do not leave pans unattended on your hob – it is easily done, such as when the doorbell or telephone rings.
- The same applies to candles: do not leave burning candles unattended – they are the second most common cause of house fires.
- All electrical appliances and sockets should be checked regularly. If there are any signs of damage or overheating, get them checked out. It is a good idea to keep the appliances unplugged during the night or when away, especially cookers and heaters. Take great care when using multi-adapters as they can easily overload sockets.
- Gas appliances should be checked annually by a qualified gas safe engineer, ideally done when the engineer is servicing your boiler. Electrical appliances should also be regularly inspected.
- Do not place clothing, sheets or towels on electric heaters to dry, no matter how tempting it is to do so. Also, be careful that cushions and bedding cannot fall on to heaters or the floor nearby.
- Check your air vents regularly; they help prevent the build-up of carbon monoxide.
- Plan escape routes from your park home, should the worst happen. Ensure everyone knows where door and window lock keys are, and that hinges and handles are all working.
Having checked your park home, and taken the steps above, your attention should then focus on your pitch. Pay attention to potential fire hazards which could spread to your home or across to your neighbours. For example, garden sheds and especially those with stored flammable items such as paint and fuel for lawn mowers.
The park operator has a number of statutory obligations with regards to fire safety. The principal legislation is the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (FSO). This act places a number of obligations on park operators, one being the need to identify a ‘responsible person’ on the park who is required to ensure fire risks are assessed, managed, and that safety measures are implemented. These will include:
- Spacing between park homes This is important as the distancing needs to be sufficient to stop fire spreading. Ensuring this will also be a condition of the park’s Site Licence. Gaps must be kept free from combustible materials and structures.
- Park roads and gateways The park must ensure that these are accessible and clear of obstructions, including parked cars. Don’t forget that it is not just your neighbours who will want to get past, but also delivery vans, ambulances and fire engines.
- Fire Points These will be located around the park and will be the location of firefighting equipment, normally housed in a red box with one or more fire extinguishers present.
- Fire Warnings These include alarm systems, whether battery, mains powered or manually operated, and fire notices, clearly indicating the necessary action to be taken in case of fire such as, “evacuate”, “raise alarm”, “call fire brigade”. These are often combined with Fire Points.
- Water Supply Fire hydrants are crucial for fighting large fires. They will be located and easily accessible around the park homes site. Please don’t block or cover them.
- Fire Hazards Open fires should be prohibited by the park, and the use of barbecues carefully regulated. Remember never to leave BBQs unattended.
These three levels of protection – ensuring fire risk is minimised in the construction of park homes, ensuring care is taken by residents in their park homes and on their pitch, and park home operators ensuring sites are as safe as possible – all combine to make park homes as safe as they can be. But there is always a risk in all types of domestic property, and every care should be taken.
One crucial element of fire safety is worth repeating, which is to check and test your smoke alarms regularly. Diligence here could save your life. Don’t attempt to fight a fire if it is beyond your capability to do so – and if you can’t deal with it safely, immediately retire to a safe distance, call the fire service, and warn your neighbours.
PICTURE YOURSELF LIVING AT WARFIELD PARK
If you’re not yet a resident, picture yourself living at Warfield Park. Here you can enjoy all of the benefits of a small leafy rural community with fantastic neighbours, social events and activities onsite, while having a wider community just beyond the entrance. We are located in Warfield, Bracknell, with a bustling town centre, mainline train station and motorways within easy reach. You could say we are ‘A Quintessentially British Village’ in regard to how life can be experienced here inside the Park.
GET IN TOUCH
If you would like to know more about homes available or information on living in Warfield Park, or would like to write an article for our blog, you can call us on 01344 884666 or email us. If you would like to keep up with all the park news, make sure you follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn