Prevent fire at home

Every home should have at least one smoke alarm on each floor level, especially outside sleeping areas. All alarms must carry the British Standards kitemark:

If you have an alarm and it goes off regularly while you’re cooking, don’t get frustrated with it – it’s doing its job! If it’s in the wrong location contact us and we’ll advise you of a better place for it.

Smoke alarms don’t need much maintenance.

Test them once a month by pressing the TEST button on the alarm.  If the ceiling is high, use a broom handle or pole to push the button.

Dust builds up over time so gently vacuum your smoke alarm once a year.

Home safety tips

Most fires are preventable. By taking some simple precautions, you can reduce the risk to yourself, your family and your home.

Fires are more likely to start during religious and cultural celebrations, so it’s even more important to take our advice at these times. Find out more about celebrating safely.

Night time checks

To stay safe at night:

  • make sure your smoke alarms are working, check them once a month
  • never smoke in bed
  • do not cook when you have been drinking alcohol or taking drugs, or if you feel very tired
  • avoid using your washing machine, tumble dryer or dishwasher overnight

Before going to bed, check that:

  • you have closed all doors
  • your fire and any heaters are turned off
  • all candles have been put out
  • all cigarettes are out and ashtrays have a little water in them
  • all electrical equipment which is not designed to be left on overnight is turned off, including TVs and DVD players – where possible, avoid leaving them on standby
  • your cooker is turned off
  • your exit routes are clear
  • you have immediate access to your door keys and a phone if possible

Kitchens

The kitchen is the most dangerous room in the home. Every year, cooking causes over 50% of accidental fires. 70 people die and over 5,000 people are injured in kitchen fires nationally each year.  Nearly all of these fires involve the cooker.

Most burn and scald accidents happen to children in the kitchen. Children also increase the risk of fire, as they can distract adults while they are cooking.

  • Never leave cooking unattended.
  • Do not cook when you have been drinking alcohol or taking medication.
  • Hot oil is particularly dangerous. Use a deep fat fryer if you can. Never fill a pan more than one third full and don’t throw water on it if it does catch fire.
  • Don’t let fat and grease build up on the cooker, especially in the grill pan.
  • Never allow children in the kitchen unsupervised.
  • Check cookers are turned off when you’re not using them.
  • Never hang tea towels on or over the cooker.
  • Check that the pan handles are not sticking over the edge of the cooker where they could easily be knocked off or reached by children.
  • Check that wires are not hanging from benches where they could easily be caught, or reached and pulled by children.

Electrical and gas appliances

Lots of house fires are caused by faulty or misused electrical and gas equipment.

In winter, the problem is made worse by overloaded sockets, heaters, fires and Christmas lights.

Our advice is:

  • don’t overload plug sockets
  • check regularly for worn or frayed wires
  • unplug appliances when not in use
  • don’t leave appliances on overnight or when you’re going out
  • keep appliances clean and in good working order
  • consider using a residual current device, which works like a circuit breaker to protect against electric shocks and reduce the risk of electrical fires
  • keep heaters away from curtains and furniture
  • never use a heater to dry clothes
  • have your gas appliances serviced every year by a Gas Safe engineer

Matches, lighters and candles

Children as young as 2 can be fascinated by fire, the flicker of a flame, blowing out birthday candles and the bright colours of lighters.

Always keep matches and lighters out of the reach of children, ideally in your pocket or in a locked drawer or cupboard. Teach children that matches, lighters and candles are tools – not toys – and should only be used by adults.

The flame from a candle can easily cause a fire and some candle holders can get very hot, especially tea-lights. Place them on a safe surface or in suitable holders.

  • Always use a candle holder and make sure the candle fits firmly inside it.
  • Keep candles away from draughts and curtains, furniture, and anything else that can catch fire.
  • Never put lit candles on top of televisions or other non-heat resistant surfaces.
  • Never leave candles unattended or go to sleep when they are alight.
  • Keep candles out of the reach of children and pets.
  • Never move a candle once it is lit.
  • Do not use candles as nightlights for children.  Use a low watt mains or battery light.

Smoking

For smokers not ready to kick the habit, it’s vital to follow these simple precautions to prevent a fire at home:

  • Put it out, right out. Make sure your cigarette is fully extinguished.
  • Never smoke in bed and take care when you’re tired. It’s very easy to fall asleep while your cigarette is still burning and set furniture alight.
  • Avoid drugs and alcohol when smoking. It’s easy to lose your concentration when using any sort of drugs or drinking alcohol, combined with cigarettes this could be lethal.
  • Never leave lit cigarettes, cigars or pipes unattended – they can easily overbalance as they burn down.
  • Use a heavy ashtray that can’t tip over easily and is made of a material that won’t burn. Add a small amount of water to cool the contents before emptying it into an outside bin.

Students

Living away from home for the first time comes with a lot of responsibility. Every year, we attend serious fires at student accommodation that could have been avoided.

Whether you’re living in halls of residence or a privately rented property, make sure you follow our home safety advice.

Electric blankets

Electric blankets can be dangerous if they’re old or in poor condition. Replace yours if:

  • it’s more than 10 years old
  • it has a BEAB safety mark (it won’t comply with modern safety standards)
  • it’s worn or frayed
  • the fabric has scorch marks
  • the flex or tie tapes are damaged
  • the electrical connection is loose or damaged

You should unplug your electric blanket before you go to bed, unless it has a thermostat for safe overnight use.

Wood burning stoves

Wood burning stoves and wood burning boilers should use only the right quality of wood and need to be properly installed, maintained and regularly serviced by a qualified and competent person.

If your wood burner is not burning correctly, contact the company or shop that sold it to you. Alternatively, contact the Association of British Solid Fuel Appliance Manufacturers for advice.

Follow these guidelines:

  • Wood burning stoves and boilers must be placed on a fire-resistant base. Putting them directly onto a hardwood floor or carpeted surface increases the risk of fire due to the extreme heat in the fire box.
  • The door to the fire box must be kept closed at all times when in use to prevent burning fuel being ejected from the fire box.
  • Only properly seasoned wood should be burned as this will help keep the glass clear of tar deposits. It will also help prevent the build-up of resins on the flue liner that can ignite if an annual clean is not carried out. A recommended moisture level for firewood should be 20% or lower (wood moisture meters can be bought).
  • Do not place combustible materials immediately adjacent to the stove. There must be a 150mm minimum gap to the sides of the stove and nothing should be immediately in front of it.
  • Empty and check the ash can every day and ensure the ashes are cold before disposal. Wet them if necessary before putting them in your bin.
  • Fit a carbon monoxide detector in the same room as the wood burning stove, and test it regularly.
  • Flues may need to be cleaned every six months if only wood is burnt or annually if a coal/wood mix is burnt.

Find out how to ‘be gas safe’.

These tips apply to everyone but if you have problems with your sight, hearing or mobility, you may need to take extra safety precautions.