In the summer of 2022, the UK experienced unprecedented levels of heat, seeing the hottest ever temperature of 40.3C recorded in Lincolnshire. This, along with significantly reduced rainfall, caused draughts to be declared in many areas of the country, along with crop failures, wildfires, power outages and transport issues.

With the Met Office predicting a 45% chance of a hotter-than-average summer for 2023, and record-breaking temperatures becoming increasingly more common; individuals and businesses are now starting to see new risks emerging that weren’t on their radar before, including an increased risk of fires in their buildings, subsidence and even theft. 

With scientists predicting that the frequency and severity of extreme weather will increase in the coming years, action needs to be taken now to educate people on the increased risks that they face in the summer months.

Increased fire risk in a heatwave

In usual circumstances, domestic fires peak in the winter months when people use fuel-burning devices in their homes. However, the summer months aren’t without risk – with the number of incidents relating to garden fires steadily rising over recent years. As we experience hotter and more extreme temperatures, the risk of a house fire increases, and may occur in areas you don’t expect.

We can see this in the Wennington fires in London, occurring on the hottest day in the UK, which tore through 40 hectares of grassland, farm buildings, houses and garages – forcing 90 families to evacuate their homes. This was thought to have occurred when a compost pile spontaneously combusted and caused London Fire Brigade to declare a major incident.

Where there’s smoke…

Did you know that you can cut the chance of dying in a house fire by 50% just by installing a working smoke alarm? Yet 10% of British households still don’t have working alarms in place.

Many local fire brigades will carry out free inspections of your home to check for hazards and offer advice. They will check your smoke alarms are in the right locations and install any extra alarms if required. The eligibility criteria for smoke alarm installation varies from region to region, but the advice on its own can be a lifesaver, nonetheless. If you’re not eligible for a free smoke alarm, you can obtain these cheaply from DIY stores and supermarkets. They will also run through a checklist to determine the risk level of your home and what measures you can take to reduce it.

What you can do to stay safe at home

We take a look at some areas you should consider to reduce the risk of a fire in your home during a heatwave.

  • Keep technology out of direct sunlight
  • Keep reflective items out of direct sunlight including mirrors, glass and crystals
  • Do not leave charging devices under soft furnishings
  • Avoid overloading plug sockets
  • Clean fans out regularly to avoid dust build-up
  • Don’t leave tumble dryers on overnight
  • Regularly clean lint out of tumble dryers
  • Be extra cautious when charging Vape batteries as these carry more of a fire risk than smoking
  • Close curtains on windows that face the sun during the day
  • Regularly discard combustible rubbish, including garden waste and cardboard
  • Discard cigarettes in suitable ashtrays
  • Position barbeques on a flat sturdy surface, far away from combustibles
  • Never light a BBQ in an enclosed space

What about businesses?

All businesses need to adhere to certain fire safety regulations as set down by law. Whilst you may have filled in all the forms, done all the necessary checks and made reasonable adjustments to your workspace, sometimes it helps to go over the basics. We take a look at some common fire hazards in retail space and how you can knock any creeping bad habits on the head.

Charging devices
If you are charging your personal electrical devices at work, ensure that you are using legitimate, tested charging devices. Most of us have heard horror stories of fires caused by cheap phone chargers bought online exploding whilst in use. Even when using tested devices, try not to leave them unattended for an extended period of time and leave your phone uncovered, on non-flammable material.

Flammable materials
If your store sells highly flammable goods, including combustible materials and fuel, you should treat these with caution when you shut down your store for the night. If you have an area for recycling, waste or storage which homes combustible materials, make sure this does not affect any access in or out of your building and try to dispose of it on a regular basis.

Skipping PAT testing
If you bring portable electrical equipment into your commercial space, you should ensure it has been fully PAT tested by a qualified professional beforehand to ensure it is safe for use. It may be tempting to bring in a portable fan in the summer, or even a mini heater in the colder months, however, if these malfunction, they have the potential to start a serious fire.

Dust build-up
Dust derived from wood, plastic or metal can potentially cause explosions in ill-ventilated areas.  Additionally, if there is an excess build-up of dust, dirt or product on any machinery which heats up when in use, this could burn and result in a fire. Even small items like toasters can accumulate a build-up of crumbs and pose a risk. Try to keep all equipment of this nature clean and ensure no combustible materials are close by. If possible, unplug any machinery when it is not in use and do not leave anything on overnight unless necessary.

Check your devices
Ensure your fire extinguishers are fully fitted to the walls. If you discover that they are loose, they will need to be refitted to ensure they are secure. Avoid storing your stock or equipment too close to any sprinkler systems as this could render them unfit for purpose.

Does property insurance cover fire damage?

While most Home Insurance and Property Owners policies do account for fire damage, the amount that will be covered is judged by your individual policy. To get this right, it’s important that you accurately value the rebuild cost of your home or business, as well as the full value of your contents. If you underestimate this figure, you could be underinsured and at a loss should the worst happen. 

At Gravity Risk Serviceswe can talk you through everything you need to know so you know exactly what is and what isn’t covered – for businesses and individuals or landlord’s property owner policies. We can arrange you a discounted Rebuild Cost Assessment, in which you can either choose a comprehensive on-site or online desktop review of your property to ensure you have the correct rebuild cost value for your property from the off. For a no-obligation chat, just get in touch on 0121 270 5809.