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These simple steps will help protect you and your family and your home from fire.

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In the event of a fire

House Fire

  • Alert everyone
  • Get out straight away
  • Avoid smoke by keeping low
  • Only open doors you need for your escape
  • Always check the door for heat first with the back of your hand (if hot find another route)
  • Once outside call the Fire Service, stating your full address
  • DO NOT GO BACK IN
  • GET OUT
  • STAY OUT
  • CALL THE FIRE SERVICE

Smoke alarms advice

Smoke Alarm

You are more than twice as likely to die in a fire at home if you haven’t got a working smoke alarm. Smoke alarms are the easiest way to alert you to the danger of fire, giving you precious time to escape. They are cheap, easy to get hold of, and simple to install.

Whatever smoke alarm model you choose, make sure it meets the British Standard 5446 Part 1 (BS 5446-1) and ideally also carries the British Standard Kitemark.

How many alarms do you need and where should they be?

  • The more alarms you have, the safer you will be.
  • As a minimum, you should have one on each floor of your home.
  • You should always have one where you will hear it when you’re asleep.
  • The ideal position is on the ceiling, in the middle of a room, or in the hallway and landing, so you can hear the alarm throughout your home.
  • Don't put alarms in or near kitchens or bathrooms where smoke or steam can set them off by accident
  • Test your smoke alarms every week. Push the button, not your luck!
  • Change your smoke alarm every 10 years. Like most electrical goods they can stop working – it is better to change them before this happens
  • If you wear a hearing aid, can you hear the alarms when you are not wearing the hearing aid, e.g. at night?

Call us for advice on specialist smoke alarms on 0800 032 1155.

People living in high-rise accommodation

High rise

  • Have an escape plan so that you and your family are prepared
  • Let everyone in your home what the escape plan i and practise it
  • Keep exits clear of obstructions
  • If it is too dangerous to follow your escape route, ring 999 and stay inside the safest room. Keep the door shut and use towels or bedding at the bottom of the door to block the smoke.
  • Use the stairs, not the lift, when leaving the building in the event of a fire.
  • If there's a fire in another flat in the building, you're usually safest in your own home, unless you're affected by the heat or smoke.
  • In the event of a fire, never assume that someone else has called 999. Make sure your neighbours know about the fire. Bang on their doors on your way out.
  • Never tamper with internal fire mains (dry riser) inlets on landings. These provide water to firefighters when there's an emergency. It could cost lives if they're not working properly when there's a fire.
  • If you see a dry riser vandalised or damaged, report it immediately to the manager of the building.
  • Never use or store bottled gas cylinders in high-rise flats.
  • Be mindful of your parking and never park block access to high-rise flats so that the fire engines can access the building
For more safety and advice download our high-rise living booklet.

For information on the Stay Put policy, please visit see the national advice here.

Carbon monoxide

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colourless, odourless and tasteless gas. It is also extremely poisonous and because you can't see it, taste it or smell it, it COULD kill without warning in just a few hours.

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning can be similar to those of food poisoning and flu. However, unlike flu, carbon monoxide poisoning does not cause a high temperature (fever).

Being aware of the symptoms could save your life.

Common symptoms include:

  • headaches
  • dizziness and nausea
  • vomiting
  • tiredness and confusion
  • stomach pain
  • shortness of breath and difficulty breathing

For more information including advice on alarms visit Gas Safe Register

Camping and Carbon Monoxide

Carbon Monoxide in the home

Electrical advice

Electrical Safety First

Some 7,000 house fires are caused by faulty electrics, appliances, wiring and overloaded sockets every year in the UK.

How to avoid electrical fires

  • Make sure an electrical appliance has a British or European safety mark when you buy it.
  • Keep electrical leads and appliances away from water.
  • Remember – one plug per socket. If you need more plugs than there are sockets, use a bar-type fuse adaptor.
  • Unplug appliances at night or when you're not using them to reduce the risk of fire – unless they are designed to be left on all the time (for example, a fridge or freezer).
  • Keep electrical appliances clean and in good working order.

Plugs and sockets keep an eye out for the following:

  • Hot plugs or sockets, scorch marks, fuses that often blow, or flickering lights - they are all are signs of loose wiring or other electrical problems
  • Badly wired plugs - any coloured wires sticking out could come loose and debris could also get into the plug
  • Overloaded sockets - plugging too many electrical appliances into one socket can lead to overheating

The risks with cables and leads include:

  • Make sure the outer covering of all power leads is in good condition and replace if necessary if frayed or damaged.
  • They shouldn't be anywhere that they could be tripped over, or near water, cookers or other sources of heat.
  • They should never be run under rugs or carpets where they can wear through without anyone noticing - position them elsewhere.

Appliances you should never:

  • Get them wet - this includes plugs and sockets, e.g. don't put a vase of flowers on top of the TV.
  • Leave them on at night - unless they are designed to be left on, e.g. freezers
  • Put anything in the microwave that is made of metal, or has a metallic finish or parts
  • Our advice is to never use tumble dryers and washing machines overnight; there is a risk of fire if these appliances develop a fault and if this happens when people are sleeping, the risk to life is far greater.

Chargers we recommend you:

  • Make sure you follow instructions for all electrical devices and that you use the correct chargers in line with the manufacturer's guidance. If the wrong charger is used for an electrical device, the internal battery can't handle a different voltage and it can catch fire.
  • Stop using a charger if you suspect that it is faulty or fake.
  • Do not use a charger if you have to force it into the wall socket, and don't use it on an extension lead.
  • Follow the manufacturer's instructions on how long to charge a product.
  • Always buy from an approved retailer or direct from the manufacturer of the same name as the device.
  • When left plugged in overnight, chargers could overheat and cause fires.
  • Particular fire risks are phones left charging on soft furnishings and covering a phone while it's charging.

Electric blanket safety

Electric Blanket Safety

  • Always follow manufacturers' instructions for using your blanket
  • Electric blankets should be replaced every ten years
  • You should have your electric blanket tested every two years; check with your local Age Concern office to see if anyone is testing in your area
  • Always check your blanket for scorch marks, water damage, mould or exposed wires; if you see any of these on your blanket do not use it, replace it
  • Never use a hot water bottle or drink fluids in bed if you have fitted your electric blanket

Candle advice

Candles

  • Place candles in a suitable position, never place candles near flammable materials.
  • Keep out of draughts and away from curtains, other fabrics or furniture which could catch fire.
  • Make sure they are fully extinguished before leaving the room or when disposing of them.
  • Heat travels and can easily set light to other items!
  • Always use non-combustible, sturdy holders and do not leave lit candles unattended. Be especially careful with night lights and tea lights which can get hot enough to melt plastic such as the top of a Television or the side of a bath.
  • They should be secured in an upright position.
  • Keep the candles out of reach of children and pets.
  • Place scented candles in a suitable container that can withstand the heat of the liquid and will not leak as it turns to liquid in order to release the fragrance.
  • Use a snuffer or spoon to extinguish a candle, blowing them out could send sparks and hot wax flying.

In the event of a power cut or failure

  • Keep torches handy in case of a power cut, they are much safer than candles.
  • Keep a battery operated light or torch handy.
  • Regularly check the operation of battery operated lights and torches.

Cooking safety advice

Cooking safety

  • Keep the oven, hob and grill clean as a build-up of fat or grease can catch fire when hot.
  • Keep tea towels and cloths away from the cooker and hob, and take care if you're wearing loose clothing.
  • Make sure children are never left alone in the kitchen when you're cooking.
  • Isolate cooking appliances at the wall if you have small children to prevent any incidents.
  • Saucepan handles left sticking out create a danger – there's a risk they could be caught, leading to the pans being knocked off the hob.
  • Use spark devices to light gas cookers as they are safer than matches and lighters.
  • Never leave cooking unattended.
  • Keep electrical leads and appliances away from water.
  • Avoid cooking if you are tired, have been drinking alcohol or are taking medication that leaves you drowsy.
  • Toasters should be placed away from curtains and kitchen rolls, and should never be used directly underneath an overhanging cupboard.

Escape routes

Escape Plan

  • Plan an easy escape route: always make sure hallways, stairs etc. are not blocked with clutter
  • Plan an alternative route in case your first choice is blocked by fire: make sure everyone in your house knows the plans
  • Practise your escape routes and turn it into a game with all the family involved
  • Have a designated place to keep door keys on your exit route; the keys must always be kept here so that everyone could access them in a fire
  • In case you can't get out of your home, think of a safe room to go to then block any gaps in the door with clothing etc. and open the window for fresh air; if you do not have a mobile phone shout FIRE! until you are rescued
  • If your clothes catch fire, remember: Stop, Drop and Roll – this will help put the flames out; cover your face with your hands to protect it from the flames

Heating safety

Heating Safety

  • Never use petrol or other flammable liquids to light a fire; they can be very unpredictable and may not react as you expect
  • Always use a full protective fireguard when children, infirm people or pets are in the room and always ensure it is in place when you leave the room
  • Ensure the chimney is swept at least once a year (or flues checked if it is a gas fire)
  • All heating appliances should be checked regularly by a qualified person
  • Never place flammable materials, such as curtains or chairs, near a fire or heater; heat travels and can easily set things alight!
  • Be careful not to place portable heaters where they can be knocked or tripped over; ensure that the air vents are kept clear and do not overheat

Additional information and advice regarding safely heating your home using solid fuel can be found on the HETAS website. This includes information, guidance and HETAS advice on the following topics:

  • Chimneys and linings
  • Carbon Monoxide
  • Installing and using solid fuel stoves, (see also; link to the Stove Industry Alliance )
  • Solid fuel appliances and Building Regulations
  • Smoke control areas

Chimney fire safety

Regular inspection and cleaning of chimney flues will help eliminate the build-up of soot from coal, wood, oil and gas-fired systems. Sweeping also clears obstructions such as bird nests, leaves and debris.

You should have your chimney swept before lighting the first fire of the winter and also ensure that any appliances which haven't been used for a while are given a safety check.

How often should I clean my chimney?

We recommend the following simple maintenance routines:

  • Solid fuel fires – Once a year for smokeless fuel; twice a year for coal
  • Wood burning fires – four times a year when in use
  • Gas fires – Once a year if designed for sweeping
  • Oil fires – Once a year

The Fire Service also advises that you:
Chimney Fire Safety

  • Place a fireguard in front of the fire at all times
  • Extinguish all fires before going to bed or leaving the property unattended
  • Do not burn paper or rubbish on fires in the grate
  • Check for smoke from cracks in the chimney breast
  • Install a working smoke alarm in the roof space (note: manufacturers may not recommend installing their product in an unconverted loft space and doing so may invalidate the warranty of the product. Please check the guidance notes or contact the manufacturer prior to installation)
  • Consider fitting a carbon monoxide detector

Soot and smoke from a small chimney fire can cause extensive damage to personal property while larger fires can damage the roof, wipe out the first floor or even destroy a home completely.

Ensure that your smoke alarms, including any fitted in the roof space, are in full working order you have early warning should the chimney catch alight.

You can find our leaflet on Chimney Fire Safety.

Additional information and advice regarding safely heating your home using solid fuel can be found on the HETAS website. This includes information, guidance and HETAS advice on the following topics:

  • Chimneys and linings
  • Carbon Monoxide
  • Installing and using solid fuel stoves, (see also; link to the Stove Industry Alliance )
  • Solid fuel appliances and Building Regulations
  • Smoke control areas

Approved chimney sweeps operating in your area can be found at:

Night routines

  • Always check all candles and cigarettes are completely put out before going to sleep
  • Turn off all non-required appliances such as TVs and computers; every night there is a power surge on the National Grid and even if your appliances do not catch fire, they could still be damaged
  • If you have one, keep your mobile phone where you can easily reach it in bed – this could be the difference between you being able to call 999 and not
  • Keep torches in easy-to-access places; being able to pick up a torch straight away will help you escape a dark, smoke-filled room