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How to keep your home safe and secure this bonfire night.

Byline: Anne Southby

E all remember that today is the Fifth of November.

WBut while most of us are clued-up about the health and safety dos and don'ts when it comes to keeping our families free from harm, it is also vital that - whether at partying at home or out at an organised display - our properties are protected.

"Bonfire night is one of our busiest nights of the year," said assistant chief fire officer Chris Lowther, of Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service.

"We see a sharp rise in the number of calls from the public and in the number of incidents we attend.

"Whilst a small amount of these incidents are smaller fires, such as rubbish and wheelie bins being set alight, this still presents a risk to the public and means our fire crews are not available for more serious incidents.

"Attending an organised displayed is the preferred option."

So, what is the best way to ensure bonfire night doesn't turn into an early Christmas present for a thief? "If you and your family are planning to go out to a Bonfire Night event, make sure you're not leaving your home open to burglars," said a spokesperson for Ocean Finance.

"Research has found that there were 22% extra claims for theft on Bonfire Night than on a typical night.

"The combination of early nights and empty homes means potential thieves could see homes as easy pickings, so make sure they're not tempted by yours. Even though it might sound obvious, make sure you lock the front and back doors, as well as all of the windows.

"When you're in a rush to get out, it's easy to forget to do this and leave your home open to criminals.

"You should also make sure you don't leave any attractive gadgets - like smartphones or tablets - lying in full view of the windows.

"Close your curtains or blinds when you're going out, and leave a light switched on or on a timer. If possible, park your car on your drive or in your garage so it's less likely to be broken into."

If you decide to have a bonfire and fireworks at home, there are lots of measures you need to take to ensure the safety of both your family and property.

Ashley Martin, the safety charity RoSPA's public health project manager, said: "We want families to have enjoyable celebrations and an important part of this is making sure that events are not only fun but safe.

"The safest place to enjoy fireworks is at a large public display but if you'll be having your celebrations at home, be sure to follow the Firework Code.

"Top tips from the code are to plan your display in advance so you're not rushing things at the last minute and to keep fireworks in a closed box, using them one at time.

"Spectators should stand at a safe distance, so make sure your garden is big enough."

Here are some tips to ensure your property is protected: | The bonfire should be at least 18 metres (60ft) away from houses, trees, hedges, fences or sheds. | Use domestic fire lighters. | Never use petrol, paraffin or other flammable liquids.

| Never put used fireworks, aerosols, foam-filled furniture, batteries, tins of paint or tyres on a bonfire.

| Use a clear and well-mown area, free from obstructions away from any building, trees and hazards like overhead cables, with as many safe entrances and exits as possible. | Make sure entrances and exits are well lit.

| Clear away undergrowth or long grass. Remove any rubbish from the area in advance so there's nothing that can be thrown on to the fire. | The bonfire should not be lit before the fireworks display unless the display is sufficiently far removed.

| Empty all the litter bins, remove any other rubbish, take down all your signs and leave the site as clear as possible and completely safe. | The next morning make sure check everything is checked again in the daylight.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Nov 5, 2016
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