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If you do just one thing a month to change the safety mind-set, in one year you will have done 12 things to raise safety awareness. Every month you will receive one such SAFETY TIP.

Fire, Fire, Fire …
Number 1 Incident At Home


This was the bone chilling distress cry I heard from the bedroom. Weeks later, every time I go into the bedroom, I still smell burnt plastic, which impregnated the curtains and left a layer of fine black soot everywhere. It still sends shivers down my spine.

We were watching TV in the bedroom when I smelt something burning, but I ignored it. There was a brief flicker on the screen and then everything went back to normal and I assumed it ‘came right by itself’. The TV screen went black and the smell got worse. I unplugged the TV. Assuming that all is safe now, I headed for the kitchen to make a cup of tea, only to run back to the bedroom in top gear when I heard my wife Heidi screaming for HELP! There were flames behind the TV.

picture depicting a woman using a fire extinguisher to put out a fire

In a state of panic I heaved the TV off the shelf and onto the bed, not thinking of the consequences this could have. Within seconds, Heidi was back in the bedroom, having fetched the fire extinguisher from the kitchen, but by that time I had managed to smother the flames with a wet bathroom towel. Our cat, Lula, had bolted from the bed, without ‘packing her suitcase’, not to be seen until the next day!

Fire is one of those things which has two sides to it.

On the one side we have the ‘friendly’ fire, which invites us to come and sit closer and enjoy the warmth of its crackling energy. We also use this fire in a controlled manner to cook our meals, produce steam to generate electric power and drive most of our chemical processes. We have learnt to harness the risk of such a fire getting out of control and thus feel complacent and safe with fire.

The second kind of fire is the ‘hostile’ fire, the one which is out of our control. It is the number one killer in homes. These fires sow fear and panic and lead to death and destruction. In spite of this, a distinct ‘It won’t happen to me’ mind-set is apparent when we watch news reports about yet another shattering squatter camp inferno.

You might say that my wife and I were lucky, that this was a near miss. I see it as a near hit with important lessons – lessons which are clear and begged me to take action:

  • I ignored the warning signs. At the first smell of something burning, I should have switched off the TV and isolated the power, instead of assuming it had ‘come right’.
  • Even though Heidi had the presence of mind and knew where the fire extinguishers are kept, she later told me she had no idea how to use a fire extinguisher. I had never trained her, nor, for that matter, Nomveliso and Dowelani, who help in and around the house.
  • I did not make sure everyone in our home knows where to find the emergency numbers in case of fire or having to call an ambulance.

In another incident, which took place two weeks later, we were awoken early one morning by the frantic ringing of our door bell. It was our neighbour, Emanuel, pleading for HELP. The gas heater in his room had burst into flames! This time I was more composed and rushed over to his house with the fire extinguisher and put out the flames.

I don’t know what the warning signs were in this case, but the cause was clear. The rubber pipe, which connects to the gas bottle, was corroded and had sprung a leak. Emanuel was ill prepared to deal with the situation and there was no fire extinguisher in the house.


  • Use these as examples of what you want your employees to bring to toolbox talks when you ask them for incidents which happened off site.
  • Put together a safety brief urging your employees to inspect the cables and fittings of their electrical appliances as well as the pipes of their gas appliances, especially heaters.
  • Supply each employee with a fire extinguisher to take home, or at least arrange a deal where employees can purchase fire extinguishers through your company at discounted / cost prices.
  • Issue each employee with a simple emergency procedure which they can practice at home with their families and staff. This should include a vinyl sticker for emergency numbers.
  • Hold a family firefighting day at your company premises to give employees and the families an opportunity to practice firefighting.

Today is …

link to more information on World Environment Day 2014

“ If the earth were only a few feet in diameter …
and floating a few feet above a field somewhere, people would come from everywhere to marvel at it. People would walk around it, marveling at its big pools of water, its little pools and the water flowing between the pools. People would marvel at the bumps on it, and the holes in it, and they would marvel at the thin layer of gas surrounding it and the water suspended in the gas. The people would marvel at all the creatures walking around on the surface of the ball, and at the creatures in the water. The people would declare it precious because it was the only one, and they would protect it so that it would not be hurt. The ball would be the greatest wonder known, and people would come to behold it, to be healed, to gain knowledge, to know beauty and to wonder how it could be. People would love it, and defend it with their lives because they would somehow know that their lives, their own roundness, could be nothing without it
If the Earth were only a few feet in diameter. ”
~ Joe Miller ~

graphic of link to video of poem


    It’s My Mistake

    Are You Serious About Safety At Home?

    ‘Milk Bottle’ Hunt


Get loads more SAFETY TIPS when you buy my KNOCK-OUT SAFETY TIPS! CD from my DIY SAFETY COOL TOOL™ range of products. More info available here.


As always, I welcome your comments and feedback!

Copyright: Jürgen Tietz
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