If you had a fire tonight, would you know what to do?
In 2015/16 there were 38,817 house fire incidents recorded by fire and rescue services in Great Britain. Knowing what to do in the event of a fire and how to drastically reduce the chances of a fire from happening can mean the difference between life and death.
See the topics below for information about how to keep yourself and your household safe - just click the heading to find out more on each topic:
You may be surprised to know that...
- You’re four times more likely to die in a fire if you don’t have a smoke alarm that works.
- Around half of home fires are caused by cooking accidents.
- Two fires a day are started by candles.
- Every six days someone dies from a fire caused by a cigarette.
- About two fires a day are started by heaters.
- Faulty electrics (appliances, wiring and overloaded sockets) cause around 6,000 fires in the home across the country every year.
The easiest way to protect your home and family from fire is with working smoke alarms.
Did you know...?
- A working smoke alarm could save you in a fire.
- 35 people die each year because their smoke alarm is not working.
- Most fires start when people are cooking.
Love to hate your smoke alarm
We all know that an accidentally triggered smoke alarm can be a frustrating experience. But with one in three battery operated smoke alarms failing in a house fire - most often because the battery has been removed.
Everything about the pitch, volume and pattern of a smoke alarm are designed to trigger instinctive danger responses in all of us. With the alarm pitched at the most sensitive range of human hearing (3000Hz), a triggered alarm will instantly grab the attention.
All smoke alarms have to be capable of waking an adult from deep sleep, which means they must sound at a minimum of 85 decibels from three metres away - that's the same volume as a bus passing through your living room!
A matter of life and death
Never, ever remove the batteries in your alarm. It may be frustrating to find your fry-up has set it off again, but a working smoke alarm could mean the difference between life and death in a real house fire.
Fitting smoke alarms is the first crucial step to protecting yourself from fire. But what would you do if one went off during the night?
This section will help you make a plan ready for an emergency.
Be prepared by making a plan of escape
• Plan an escape route and make sure everyone knows how to escape.
• Regularly make sure exits are kept clear.
• The best route is the normal way in and out of your home.
• Think of a second route in case the first one is blocked.
• Take a few minutes to practise your escape plan.
Top Tip: Keep door and window keys where everyone knows where to find them, to help save time and possibly lives if you have to get out your house quickly.
Don't tackle fires yourself, leave it to the professionals: get out, call 999 and stay out!
• Keep calm and act quickly, get everyone out as soon as possible.
• Don’t waste time investigating what’s happened or rescuing valuables.
• If there’s smoke, keep low where the air is clearer.
• Before you open a door check if it’s warm. If it is, don’t open it – fire is on the other side.
• Call 999 as soon as you’re clear of the building. 999 calls are free.
Top tip: If you live in a block of flats make sure you follow the instructions given in the Fire Action Plan. This can be found on the fire safety notice board which is located in the main entrance way or foyer of your block.
If you can’t get out, get everyone into one room, ideally with a window and a phone.
• Put bedding around the bottom of the door to block out the smoke.
• Call 999 then open the window and shout "HELP FIRE".
• If you’re on the ground or first floor, you may be able to escape through a window.
- Use bedding to cushion your fall and lower yourself down carefully. Don’t jump.
- If you can’t open the window break the glass in the bottom corner. Make jagged edges safe with a towel or blanket.
You are more at risk from a fire when asleep. So it’s a good idea to check your home before you go to bed.
✓Close inside doors at night to slow the spread of fire.
✓Turn off and unplug electrical appliances unless they are designed to be left on – like your freezer.
✓Check your cooker is turned off.
✓Don’t leave the washing machine on.
✓Turn heaters off and put up fireguards.
✓Put candles and cigarettes out properly.
✓Make sure exits are kept clear.
✓Keep door and window keys where everyone can find them.
Lancaster City Council have three high rise block of flats on Mainway in Skerton. The council takes fire safety very seriously. We work closely with Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service to ensure that all our buildings are as safe from fire as possible.
The flats on the Mainway Estate were refurbished and fitted with Structherm cladding and new windows in the 1990s. Structherm is not the same as the aluminium composite material type used in the construction of Grenfell Tower.
Structherm cladding has been independently tested by the Building Research Establishment (BRE) and the fire performance complied with requirements of BRE 135. It is classed as low risk.
Stay Put Policy
If you live in one of the council's three high rise block of flats it is important to know that the blocks operate on a 'stay put' evacuation policy, which involves the following approach to fire evacuation.
When a fire occurs within your flat, you should alert other household members, make your way out of the building and summon the fire and rescue services on 999.
If a fire starts in the comman parts (hallway and foyer), any one in these areas should make their way out of the building and summon the fire and rescue services on 999.
All other residents not directly affected by the fire, would be expected to 'stay put' and remain in their flat unless directed to leave by the fire and rescue service.
Important Note: It is not implied that those not directly involved who wish to leave the building should be stopped from doing so, nor does this stop those evacuation a flat this is on fire from alerting their neighbours so that they can escape should they feel threatened.
Cook safely Take extra care if you need to leave the kitchen whilst cooking, take pans off the heat or turn them down to avoid risk.
• Avoid cooking when under the influence of alcohol.
• Avoid leaving children in the kitchen alone when cooking on the hob. Keep matches and sauce pan handles out of their reach to keep them safe.
• Make sure saucepan handles don’t stick out – so they don’t get knocked off the stove.
• Take care if you’re wearing loose clothing – they can easily catch fire.
• Keep tea towels and cloths away from the cooker and hob.
• Spark devices are safer than matches or lighters to light gas cookers, because they don’t have a naked flame.
• Double check the cooker is off when you’ve finished cooking
Take care with electrics
• Keep electrics (leads and appliances) away from water.
• Check toasters are clean and placed away from curtains and kitchen rolls.
• Keep the oven, hob and grill clean and in good working order. A build up of fat and grease can ignite a fire.
Important Note: Don’t put anything metal in the microwave.
Deep fat frying
• Take care when cooking with hot oil – it sets alight easily.
• Make sure food is dry before putting it in hot oil so it doesn’t splash.
• If the oil starts to smoke – it’s too hot. Turn off the heat and leave it to cool.
• Use a thermostat controlled electric deep fat fryer. They can’t overheat.
What to do if a pan catches fire
• Don’t take any risks. Turn off the heat if it’s safe to do so. Never throw water over it.
• Don’t tackle the fire yourself.
How to avoid electrical fires
• Always check that you use the right fuse to prevent overheating.
• Make sure an electrical appliance has a British or European safety mark when you buy it.
• Certain appliances, such as washing machines, should have a single plug socket to themselves, as they use alot of power.
• Wherever possible, try and keep to one plug per socket.
• When charging electrical goods, follow the manufacturer’s instructions and look for the CE mark that indicates chargers comply with European safety standards.
Extenions and Adaptors
An extension lead or adaptor will have a limit to how many amps it can take, so be careful not to overload them to reduce the risk of a fire.
Appliances use different amounts of power – a television may use a 3amp plug and a vacuum cleaner a 5amp plug for example
Make sure you are aware of your extension or adaptor's amp limit, and never overload it. For example: a 13 Amp extension can take two 5 amp and one 3 amp appliances.
• Keep your eyes peeled for signs of dangerous or loose wiring such as scorch marks, hot plugs and sockets, fuses that blow or circuit-breakers that trip for no obvious reasons, or flickering lights.
• Check and replace any old cables and leads, especially if they are hidden from view – behind furniture or under carpets and mats.
• Unplugging appliances helps reduce the risk of fire.
• Unplug appliances when you’re not using them or when you go to bed.
Keep electrical appliances clean and in good working order to prevent them triggering a fire.
If you already have a battery powered mobility scooter or you are interested in getting one, you scould ensure that there is enough space within your home to be able to accomodate it.
It should also be noted that wheelchairs and scooters along with other non-permissable items must not be stored and kept in communal areas, such as corridors and landing. This is because the constitute a fire risk, and could affect peoples ability to escape safely in the event of a fire.
As well as posing a possilbe obstruction to escape, there is now a clear and increasing body of evidence to show that mobility scooters present a fire risk in themselves, often while charging. When burning mobility scooters produce quantities of smoke and heat, which makes the spread of fire worse and impacts further on fire escape.
To see an example of the risk a mobility scooter can cause, please click the link in the right hand column, which will take you to a fire safety information video from Dorset Fire and Rescure Services.
Portable heaters inlude; open coal, wood or coke fires, gas fires, portable gas fires (LPG heaters), electric fires and heaters, and oil and paraffin heaters.
Most accidents are caused by people's behaviour rather than technical faults in the appliances themselves. For example, standing or sitting too close to the heater, allowing clothing or other items to come too close, or leaving heaters on overnight can all cause accidents.
Although never recommended by the fire service or the council, some people may choose to use portable heaters. Council Housing would strongly recommend that if you choose to use one:
- Never sit too close to a heater - you could easily set light to your clothes or your chair, particularly if you fall asleep. Sit at least 1 metre (3 feet) away.
- Try to secure heaters up against a wall to stop them falling over.
- Keep them clear from curtains and furniture and never use them for drying clothes.
To help you stay safe and warm in winter and to help reduce the number of unsafe electric blankets being used in homes, we recommend that you follow these simple steps when using and storing your electric blanket.
Using your electric blanket
✓read and follow the manufacturer's instructions before use
✓examine your blanket regularly for signs of wear or damage
✓use the blanket only for the purpose the manufacturer intended, i.e:
- over-blankets must only be positioned above the occupant of the bed
- under-blankets must only be positioned under the occupant of the bed
✓check the manufacturer's instructions for suitability to wash your blanket
✓carry out a visual check of the blanket to make sure the blanket is intact with no visible signs of damage caused in transport when first purchased
✓if the fuse in the 13 amp plug requires changing, a 3 amp BS 1362 fuse must be fitted
✗use the blanket whilst it is still folded or creased
✗use a hot water bottle at the same time as using your electric blanket
✗touch the blanket with wet hands or feet
✗insert or use pins to hold the blanket in place on the bed
✗use the under-blankets on adjustable beds, or if used on an adjustable bed, check that the blanket and cord do not become trapped or rucked, for example in hinges
✗use an electric blanket on the bed of a helpless person, an infant or a person who may have a condition that makes them insensitive to heat
✗allow the appliance to be used by young children unless the controls have been pre-set by a parent/carer or that you are satisfied that the child is able to use the appliance safely
✗allow people with pacemakers fitted to use heated bedding for all night use
Storing your electric blanket
When your blanket is not in use, it should be stored flat, rolled up or loosley folded to prevent damage to the internal wiring.
Do not use moth-proofing chemicals on it, or place heavy items on top of it.
It can even be left on the bed all year round, or loosely folded and stored in a cool dry place.
Furniture and Furnishings Regulations are part of UK law and are designed to ensure that upholstery components and composites used for furniture supplied in the UK meet specified ignition resistance levels and are suitable labelled.
Always make sure that your furniture has the fire-resistant permanent label.
Cigarettes: Put them out. Right out!
Stub cigarettes out properly and dispose of them carefully.
• Never smoke in bed.
• Use a proper ashtray – never a wastepaper basket.
• Make sure your ashtray can’t tip over and is made of a material that won’t burn.
• Don’t leave a lit cigarette, cigar or pipe lying around. They can easily fall over and start a fire.
• Take extra care if you smoke when you’re tired, taking prescription drugs, or if you’ve been drinking. You might fall asleep and set your bed or sofa on fire.
• Keep matches and lighters out of children’s reach.
• Consider buying child resistant lighters and match boxes
Make sure candles are secured in a proper holder and away from materials that may catch fire – like curtains.
Put candles out when you leave the room, and make sure they’re put out completely at night. Also make sure that children and pets are not left alone with lit candles.
Top Tip: Don't place lit tea lights on top of your TV or other electrical applicances, the metal base can heat up and melt through the casing dramatically increasing the chance of a fire starting.
In November 2015 a product recall was initiated to owners of tumble dryers manufactured by various brands including Hotpoint, Indesit, Creda, Proline, and Swan. The recall related to condenser and vented dryers manufactured between April 2004 and September 2015.
The recall related to the risk of fire caused by laundry fluff coming into contact with the heating element of the machine and is believed to be responsible for thousands of house fires and at least two fatalities. Since then the manufacturers of the affected dryers have offered customers the chance to have the fault rectified.
At the time of the initial recall the information provided by the manufacturers was to not leave the machines unattended when in use. However, in the past week Trading Standards have recommended that the manufacturer issues updated usage advice to all customers that have not yet received the product rectification.
The latest update now recommends that if you have one of the affected dryers then you unplug it and do not use it until the modification has taken place.
Alternatively a freephone hotline number is available: 0800 151 0905
Creda and Proline customers should visit:
For lots more helpful advice and tips about fire safety in the home, you can visit the fire safety pages at GOV.UK - this is the government website for information and public services. It has information about:
- cooking safely
- planning a safe escape
- electrical appliance fire safety
- smoke alarms
- fire safety for parents and child carers
- support after a fire
Finally, for your free home fire safety check, visit the Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service website at www.lancsfirerescue.org.uk, or call 0800 1691125.
Last updated: 16 June 2023