Fire safety information
FIRE KILLS. The effect of fire is often devastating it destroys people, homes and possessions, and can change lives forever.
200 people each year die as a result of fires in the home. Articles on the television and in newspapers bring home the seriousness of fire.
Despite this, how often do we consider how to protect our home and family by preventing fire starting?
When did you last check your smoke detector, and does your family know what to do if they need to escape a fire?
By undertaking a few simple checks, you can reduce the risk of a fire starting, and keep your family, possessions and home safe.
Did you know...?
- Most fires in the home occur between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m. when people are asleep.
- Fire fighting is best left to the fire brigade, unless a fire is small and can be easily put out.
- Inhaling smoke and toxic gas from by fires kill more people than the fire itself.
The facts and figures
- You are twice as likely to die in a fire if you do not have a smoke alarm that works.
- 90 people die each year because the battery in their smoke alarm was flat or missing.
- Cooking accidents cause over half of home fires
- Candles cause more than five fires a day – every day!
- Every three days someone dies from a fire started by a cigarette.
- Faulty electrics (appliances, wiring and overloaded sockets) cause 7,000 house fires across the country every year.
- Toxic smoke generated by fire can kill within three breaths.
- We do not use our sense of smell when asleep, so we are unlikely to ‘wake’ because of the smell of a fire.
Stop fire before it starts: fit a smoke alarm!
Did you know you are twice as likely to die in a fire if you do not have a smoke alarm that works. They will alert you to a problem, and give you extra time to evacuate your home.
- Make sure your smoke alarm has a British Standard Kite Mark (or equivalent international standard), and is located in a position recommended by the manufacturer.
- Make sure that you have a smoke alarm on each floor within your home.
- Test weekly to ensure they work.
- Clean and replace the battery in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations.
- Make sure your family know what they sound like when they go off.
- If they go off, do not assume it is a false alarm.
- Smoke alarms are available with flashing lights and vibrating pads, which may be useful if a family member has sight or hearing impairment.
- Ensure electrical equipment is fitted and used correctly.
- Make sure that plugs are fitted with a correctly rated fuse (refer to the manufacturer’s instructions).
- Never use such things as silver foil or metal instead of a fuse – even as a temporary measure.
- Check plugs and cables for signs of wear and damage – replace them rather than attempting a repair.
- Do not overload electrical sockets – as a general rule, one plug to one socket.
- Do not ‘daisy-chain’ extension leads, and avoid using adaptors that are not fused.
- Never run cables under carpets or rugs – if they become damaged you will not notice it.
- Turn off appliances from the socket, or unplug them when not in use – unless the appliance is designed to be permanently connected (like a fridge or freezer).
- Do electrical sockets or the plugs get ‘hot’, or have ‘scorch marks’ on them?
- Do fuses ‘blow’ for no obvious reason?
- Do lights ‘flicker’?
Any of these could indicate a fault: arrange for a qualified electrician to check the house wiring without delay.
- Ensure a qualified engineer regularly checks gas appliances.
- If you smell gas, or think there is a gas leak, turn off the gas supply, do not switch any electrical appliances on or off, or allow naked flame.
- Call the emergency number IMMEDIATELY on 0800 111 999.
Many fires start in the kitchen. Avoid cooking if you are tired, have been drinking alcohol or are on medication. Cooking when tired or drowsy causes many fires.
Ovens, hobs and toasters
- Keep anything that can burn well away – including tea towels, cloths, kitchen rolls, curtains and electrical leads.
- Keep them clean – a build up of fat, grease, or crumbs can easily catch fire.
- Use a spark device to light gas cookers – never use matches.
- Pots and pans – keep handles away from the heat, and where they will not be accidentally knocked, or pulled over by children.
- Consider fitting a childproof catch to the oven door if you have children.
- Never fill oil or fat pans more than one-third full and do not put wet or frozen food into hot oil – the water content could make the fat or oil boil over the pan and catch fire.
- Never try and put out pan fires containing oil with water or even a damp cloth.
- If safe, turn the cooker or hob off.
- Close the kitchen door.
- Get everyone out and phone the Fire Brigade on 999.
- Only use the microwave in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Never put anything metallic in the microwave, or use it to sterilise dishcloths or sponges.
- Use a proper ironing board.
- Turn the iron off when not in use, and allow it to cool on a solid non-combustible surface.
- Keep irons away from curtains, carpets and anything else that may catch fire.
Hair straighteners / tongs
- Turn off when not in use, and allow to cool on a solid non-combustible surface.
- Keep them away from curtains, carpets and anything else that may catch fire.
Gas fuelled equipment
- Refuelling and replacing gas-operated equipment – hair tongs, cigarette lighters etc – comply with manufacturer’s advice.
- Replace canisters in a well-ventilated area, only when the appliance is cool.
Portable heating appliances
- Never sit too close; if you fall asleep the heater could set your clothes or the chair alight.
- Locate heaters where they cannot be knocked over, and electrical leads where they will not be a tripping hazard.
- Keep heaters well away from furniture, beds and fabrics.
- Do not put anything on a heater or use it to dry or air clothes.
- Use guards over the fire especially if you have children.
- Never move a heater when it is hot or switched on.
- Turn it off and wait for it to cool before moving it or leaving it unattended.
Washing machines, tumble dryers and dishwashers
- Do not use them when you are asleep, an electrical fault could result in fire.
- Only use BEAB approved electric blankets.
- Creases or fold marks could indicate damage to the heating element – replace it.
- Replace electric blankets that are soiled, have loose connections or any signs of damage.
- Do not use an electric blanket in the bed unless it is designed for safe night use.
- Check to see if it is an ‘over’ or ‘under-blanket’ and use it only for that purpose.
- Have it tested every three years, and replace it at least every ten years.
Advice for parents and child carers
Fire is one of the most common causes of accidental injury and death among children. They are naturally drawn to the warmth and light of fire, but without proper guidance this can turn into a dangerous fascination. The best way to teach children about fire safety is by example. Let your children see you being sensible and careful about cooking, candles and other potential fire risks. Find out more about talking to children about fire – and what they should do if there is one.
The following tips will help keep your children out of harm’s way:
Talking to your children about fire
Give children under five clear instructions of what they should and should not do. With older children, it is better to also explain why. You will probably need to talk about fire safety more than once, to make sure they have remembered and understood what you have taught them. Tell them:
- To tell a grown-up if they see matches or lighters lying around.
- Never to play with matches, lighters or lighted candles.
- Never to play, or leave toys, close to a fire or heater.
- Not to put things on top of heaters or lights.
- Not to pull on electric cables or fiddle with electrical appliances or sockets.
- Never to switch on the cooker or put anything on top of it.
- Never to touch any saucepans on the cooker.
Fire instructions for children
It is important to talk through with children what to do if there is a fire – do not avoid it for fear of frightening them.
Children need to know the basics of how to react, as there may not be an adult around to tell them what to do if a fire happens. Here are the basic instructions to give to your children:
If they see smoke or flames, they should tell someone straight away – a grown-up if possible.
- Get out of the building as soon as possible.
- Never go back into the building for anything.
- Never hide in a cupboard or under a bed – get out of the house and call for help straight away.
- Find a phone and call 999, and ask for the Fire and Rescue Service – give the address of the fire slowly and calmly (they may need to go to the neighbours to find a phone)
- Make sure that children know their address so they can raise the alarm.
Know your escape route
- Plan an escape route and make sure that everyone in the house is familiar with it, including children, childminders and babysitters. Keep all exits clear and practice the escape plan with children.
Make your home safe for children
Here are some measures you can take in your home to make sure your children stay safe:
- Do not leave children on their own in a room where there is a fire risk.
- Keep matches, lighters andcandles in a place where childrencannot seeor reach them – and put child locks on cupboards.
- Put a child-proof fireguard in front of an open fire or heater.
- Do not let children play or leave toys near a fire or heater.
- Keep portable heaters in a safe place where they cannot be knocked over when they are being used or stored.
- Never leave children alone in the kitchen when you are cooking and never let them play near the cooker.
- Make sure electrical appliances are switched off when they are not being used.
Plug socket covers
It is difficult to get an electric shock by playing with a socket.
In some instances socket covers may stop young children plugging in heaters or other appliances that could cause burns or start a fire – but you should not rely on them as they are not regulated for safety. It is much better to make sure appliances are safely put away.
Most fires in the home occur between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m. when people are asleep.
Fire often has time to develop before being discovered. Waking and having to respond to an emergency situation whilst disorientated is dangerous. It makes sense to undertake checks before going to sleep:
- Cooker and heaters – check they are turned off and are cool.
- Electrical appliances – switch off and unplug.
- Ashtrays – check that the ash and cigarette ends are out, and the contents cool – use ashtrays that will not tip over.
- Coal fires – ensure contents of the hearth are fully out and cool – put the fireguard in its place.
- Doors – if you lock them, ensure keys are in their usual place. Make sure your family know where to find them in an emergency.
- Internal doors – shut them to delay the fire spreading to other rooms.
- Electric blankets – unplug them and never use an electric blanket and a hot water bottle at the same time.
- If you have a phone, check to make sure it can be used to call the Fire Brigade in an emergency.
- If your smoke alarm goes off while you are asleep, do not investigate. Shout to wake everyone up, and evacuate. Never assume that it may be a false alarm.
- Check your escape route is clear of obstructions.
Fire escape plan
Every second counts if you or your family need to escape a fire in your home.
Heat, smoke and toxic gas cause dizziness and disorientation, making it easy to become disorientated or trapped.
Escape routes from communal areas have direction and exit signs, make sure you are familiar with them.
Remember – it is important to consider how you will escape from your home:
- Everyone in the family needs to know what to do if a fire starts.
- Practicing escape reduces panic and injury if a real fire starts.
- Smoke, gas and heat rise – fresher, cooler air can be found at floor level.
- Agree a meeting place – it prevents people looking for one another, or being tempted to re-enter the building for anyone thought to still be inside. The meeting place needs to be a safe distance away from the building.
Explain the plan
Once you have made your plan, go through it with everyone in the household.
You could also:
- Put a reminder of what to do in a fire somewhere where it will be seen regularly, like on the fridge door.
- Put your address by the phone so that children can read it out to the emergency services.
In the event of fire
- During escape – check to see if doors are hot before you open them. Feel doors with the back of your hand; if they are hot, the fire may be on the other side.
- When everyone is out, call the Fire Brigade on 999.
- Tell the Fire Brigade if anyone is missing, and where they may be. Under no circumstances re-enter the building. Fire-fighters rescue trapped people before tackling fire.
- Consider what to do if you become trapped:
- Try and get to a room that has a window.
- Close doors – they will hold back fire and smoke.
- Stop smoke and heat entering the room by sealing gaps and vents with damp towels or clothing.
- Make sure the Fire Brigade know where you are trapped:
- If you have a telephone, call the Fire Brigade on 999, otherwise:
- Shout ‘fire’ from the opened window;
- Attract attention – something brightly coloured, such as a t-shirt, would be ideal.
Celebrations and festivities
Seasonal and festive events can increase the risk of fire.
Candles / joss sticks
Candles are frequently used as part of religious celebration and festivities. Fragrant candles have become more popular in recent times.
- Make sure they are only used on a solid non-combustible surface that will not be knocked over.
- Keep out of children’s reach.
- Do not leave candles unattended.
- After use, check that the wick and the candle are cool and there is no possibility of the candle relighting.
Greeting cards and decorations
Ever considered the risk that cards, decorations and wrapping paper could pose? Decorations made of paper or cardboard burn easily!
- Keep cards and decorations well away from anything that could set them alight.
- Do not put them immediately above or around the fireplace.
- Keep them away from anything that could set them alight if they fall.
- Keep them away from candles, and do not attach them to lights or heaters.
Trees, especially dried out ones that have not been recently cut, increase fire risk in the home. A burning tree can rapidly fill a room with fire and toxic gas.
- Pick a freshly cut tree; older dried-out trees are a greater fire risk.
- The needles should bend rather than break – if they break or fall off the branch easily, the tree has dried out.
- Do not place your tree close to a heat source, the heat will dry the tree out, the tree will not last as long, and it will be more easily ignited by heat, flame or sparks.
- Be careful not to drop or flick cigarette ash near a tree.
- When the tree becomes dry, dispose of it promptly.
- Never put tree branches or needles in a fireplace or wood-burning stove.
Whether they are the indoor tree lights or ones that we use to illuminate the patio in the summer, they tend to be brought out from storage and used without being checked.
- Check them before use – are the cables, fittings and bulbs free from damage?
- Were they stored properly, avoiding damage to the cable and light fittings?
- Do not overload sockets (refer to the ‘electricity’ section)
- Be aware that bulbs can get hot, and need to be kept clear of combustible items.
- Only used them where they cannot be accidentally knocked over.
- Follow the manufacturer’s advice, and replace bulbs if they fail / blow.
Parties at home
Guests need to be aware of where keys are – particularly if staying overnight, along with the escape route and assembly area.
Having fireworks at home can be great fun, as long as they are used safely.
Figures show more children than adults get hurt by fireworks. Over the past five years over 350 pre-school children, some only a year old, were treated in hospital for fireworks injuries.
Be safe – not sorry. Plan your firework display to make it safe and enjoyable
Use fireworks properly. If you are putting on a home display, you should follow some simple steps to make sure that everyone has a good time without getting hurt.
- Keep fireworks in a closed box and use them one at a time.
- Read and follow the instructions on each firework using a torch if necessary.
- Light the firework at arms-length with a taper and stand well back.
- Keep naked flames, including cigarettes, away from fireworks.
- Never return to a firework once it has been lit.
- Do not put fireworks in pockets and never throw them.
- Direct rocket fireworks well away from spectators.
After the firework display
- Make sure that the fire is out and surroundings are made safe before leaving.
Keep children safe
- Children can enjoy fireworks but they need to know that they can be dangerous if they are not used properly.
- Each year, children suffer over half of all firework injuries.
Sparklers get five times hotter than cooking oil!
- Sparklers are not toys and should never be given to a child under five.
Where to buy
- Do not cut corners just to save money.
- Always buy fireworks from a reputable shop to make sure that they conform to British Standards. Check they have BS 7114 written on the box.
- Sometimes shops open up for a short time before bonfire night but these may not be the best places to buy fireworks.
- Do not buy fireworks from anywhere you are not sure about, such as the back of a van or from a temporary, unlicensed market stall.
What to buy
- There are different categories of fireworks. Members of the public can buy and set off most of the fireworks that come under categories 1 to 3.
- These include those that you can use indoors, in your garden or at a display.
- Always read the packet carefully and make sure that the fireworks you buy are suitable for the place where you are going to set them off.
Some fireworks can only be bought and used by firework professionals. These include: air bombs; aerial shells, aerial maroons, shells-in-mortar and maroons-in-mortar; all bangers; mini rockets; fireworks with erratic flight; some category 2 and 3 fireworks which exceed certain size limits; and all category 4 fireworks.
Setting fireworks off
Only one person should be in charge of fireworks. If that is you, then make sure you take all the necessary precautions.
Read the instructions in daylight and do not drink any alcohol until all the fireworks have been discharged.
Make your preparations in advance, and in daylight. On the night, you will need:
- A torch.
- A bucket or two of water.
- Eye protection and gloves.
- A bucket of soft earth to put fireworks in.
- Suitable supports and launchers if you are setting off catherine wheels or rockets.
Outdoor activities are often a great way to spend your leisure time but they have their own set of unique fire risks.
A barbecue should be a safe and enjoyable experience but it is all too easy to be distracted when you have friends and family around you whilst cooking. To avoid injuries or damage to property, follow these simple precautions:
- Make sure your barbecue is in good working order.
- Ensure the barbecue is on flat ground or a flat surface, well away from a shed, trees or shrubs.
- Keep children, garden games and pets well away from the cooking area.
- Never leave the barbecue unattended.
- Ensure the barbecue is cool before attempting to move it.
- Use only enough charcoal to cover the base to a depth of about 50mm (2 inches).
- Only use recognised firelighters or starter fuel and only on cold coals.
- Use the minimum necessary and never use petrol.
- Never put hot ashes straight into a dustbin or wheelie bin – they can remain hot for many hours, and could cause a fire.
- Never cook on a barbecue indoors – the charcoal gives off carbon monoxide.
- Make sure the tap is turned off before changing the gas cylinder.
- Change cylinders outdoors if possible or in a well-ventilated area.
- If you suspect a leak to the cylinder or pipe work, brush soapy water around the joints and watch for bubbles that would indicate a leak.
- Tighten connection to fix but do not over tighten them.
- After cooking, turn off the gas cylinder before turning off at the controls to ensure any residual gas is used up.
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Regulations require your landlord to manage fire risk within communal areas. Typically you will see fire doors, escape lighting and fire escape signs.
- Do not leave items such as rubbish, bicycles or buggies, plants or mats in communal areas – they will restrict escape and become obstructions. If a fire does occur, and these items ignite, they will increase the level of toxic smoke. Remember toxic smoke kills more frequently than fire.
- Use the refuse facilities to dispose of waste.
- If you have a refuse chute, do not remove the hopper, and do not put bulky items down the chute. Missing hoppers and blockages increase the risk of fire spreading quickly.
- Never use a lift in the event of a fire – if the electricity supply fails you will be trapped.
- Do not wedge fire doors open – they are designed to prevent the spread of smoke and fire.
- Check that the access route to the entrance to the building is kept clear, to allow access for emergency vehicles.
If you have concerns about communal area fire safety, or need to report damaged or vandalised equipment provided for fire safety, report them to your landlord or caretaker.
If you are a Merton Housing resident, report concerns or damage to either your caretaker or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org
What is it?
- Carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas.
- It can be given off by appliances that burn fossil fuels such as gas, coal, wood or oil, especially if appliances are not working properly, or if the flue is blocked, or if the room is not properly ventilated.
- Why is it so dangerous?*
- Carbon monoxide is odourless, colourless and tasteless, which makes it difficult to detect.
- The effects are deadly. On average, 50 people a year are killed by carbon monoxide poisoning due to faulty heating appliances.
What are the main causes of carbon monoxide poisoning?
- Most cases of carbon monoxide poisoning are due to inadequate ventilation or poor maintenance of appliances, blocked or leaky flues and chimneys.
- Chimneys can become blocked for various reasons. It could be as a result of birds nesting on the chimney, or possible deterioration of the flue.
- A blocked flue can lead to carbon monoxide leaking into your home.
- The danger signs*
Carbon monoxide may be present if there are any of the following danger signs:
- Gas flames that normally burn blue burn orange or yellow instead.
- Sooty stains appear on or just above appliances, regardless of the fuel being burnt.
- Coal or wood fires burn slowly or go out.
- The fire is difficult to light.
- The room is not properly ventilated.
- The chimney or flue is blocked – watch out for smoke in the room.
- You develop the following unexplained symptoms:
- Chest pains
Stay carbon monoxide safe
- Carbon monoxide can result from burning all fossil fuels – not just gas fires and boilers.
- Ensure rooms are ventilated – never block vents. If double-glazing or draught proofing is fitted, make sure there is still enough air circulating for any heaters in the room.
- Make sure portable heaters are well ventilated.
- Ensure chimneys and flues used by gas fires, and in particular solid fuel appliances, are regularly swept and kept clear.
- Boilers and heating systems and appliances should be installed, maintained and regularly serviced by a competent engineer (make sure the company is Gas Safe registered for gas appliances).
- If you have recently moved, check when your boiler or heating appliances were last serviced.
- Gas flames burning orange or yellow instead of blue may indicate carbon monoxide being produced.
- Carbon monoxide detectors should comply with British Standard BS 7860 – but remember they are only warning devices. Never rely on them entirely and do not use them as a substitute for regular servicing.
- Never cook on a barbecue indoors – the charcoal gives off carbon monoxide.
If you develop any of the following unexplained symptoms – drowsiness, headaches, chest pains, giddiness, sickness, diarrhoea, and stomach pains – you could be suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning. Switch off your appliances and see your doctor straight away.
Other things to consider
- Keep valuable items in a metal fireproof box. Passports, birth / marriage certificates and insurance documents etc can be difficult to replace.
- Consider keeping a record of bank and saving account numbers.
- Consider buying an approved fire blanket to contain pan fires.
- Domestic waste (rubbish) should be taken to the appropriate refuse disposal area, and never stored anywhere else, even as a temporary measure.
The Fire Brigade offer free fire safety advice and help with fitting smoke alarms.
Contact them at:
London Fire Brigade
169 Union Street
Telephone: 020 8555 1200
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