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Home working, self-isolating and social distancing...phrases very few of us have ever used before! This is the world of COVID-19 or Coronavirus.

Now that schools have closed their doors to most pupils, children and adults will be more likely to be spending more time at home over the next few weeks. This could increase the chances of you having a fire or accident in your home.

Fortunately, by following our seven simple steps, you can significantly reduce the risk to you and your loved ones over this challenging period:

1. Don’t leave cooking unattended

Distraction is the leading cause of house fires nationally. In fact, most of the cooking fires we attend are down to somebody starting cooking, forgetting about it (or falling asleep) and leaving it to burn. The rest usually involve chip pans – please use oven chips instead. Ensure that children are supervised in the kitchen. Inquisitive little ones face additional risk of burns or serious injury.

tea towel catches fire on hob2. Make sure you don't leave clothes, tea-towels and other items near heaters, hobs and other heat sources

Another leading cause of house fires is people leaving things like clothes and tea-towels on hobs and portable heaters. Items like these can easily set on fire, so it’s vital you keep them away from naked flames and other heat sources.

3. Check electrical appliances, don’t overload sockets and NEVER use faulty items or white goods

Extension leads can only handle so much power – plug too many things in and the chances are they will blow. Faulty goods can also be a big issue, too. If your washing machine or tumble dryer starts playing up – stop using it and get it checked immediately.

4. Beware of faulty or unsuitable chargers when powering up phones or tablets

Always charge your device on a hard even surface and ONLY use the plug-in charger which came with the product. Cheap imitations may appear charge your device sufficiently, but are often built poorly and can have suspect wiring inside which increases the risk of overheating and causing a fire. Don't overload sockets with multiplugs etc and switch off electical items if you are not using them.

testing smoke alarm5. Make sure you have working smoke alarms and test them regularly

Smoke alarms save lives, but only if you have them and they are working. They can give you an early warning of a fire – early enough for you to get out safely. Buy them. Fit them. Test them.

During what are very challenging times for us all we’d ask that, as well as taking on board this advice yourself, you pass the messages on to your friends, neighbours and relatives – especially those over 70-years-old.

6. If you smoke, be extra vigilant

Keep matches and lighters away from children, and double check that your cigarette is properly extinguished. Try not to smoke if you’ve been drinking alcohol and avoid smoking in bed or if you’re feeling sleepy. If you can do so safely, smoke outdoors.

7. Have a night-time routine

Fully extinguish all candles and ensure cigarettes aren't left smouldering when you go to bed. Turn off all electrical items and close all internal doors. This helps to stop fire spreading and will give you extra time to escape.

Happily, accidental house fires are still very rare and our firefighters stand ready to respond to emergency calls should the worst happen. If it does, don't attempt to tackle the fire yourself, just GET OUT, STAY OUT and DIAL 999.

Please stay safe.