Staying Safe at Home
We are committed to keeping everyone safe from fire. One of the ways we do this is by providing fire safety advice to try and stop fires from occurring in the home.
One of the easiest ways to prevent a fire is to follow our ‘STOP Fire’ message:
- S – make sure you have smoke alarms on every floor of your home.
- T – test those smoke alarms weekly to make sure they’re working.
- O – be aware of the obvious dangers in your home. You can find advice about these below.
- P – plan your escape route should a fire occur.
‘STOP Fire’ video
Below is a list of some of the most common causes of fire in the home, and advice on how to stop these potential dangers from starting a fire.
In recent years many people who have lost their lives in house fires have consumed excess alcohol. Alcohol significantly affects human behaviour, so it is not surprising to find that it is a major factor in fire related deaths and injuries. Therefore if you have been drinking alcohol, you should take extra care:
- If you have been drinking, never smoke in bed; often clothes or bedding are the first items ignited which leaves the person in a particularly vulnerable position.
- Get into the habit of smoking outside; this will significantly reduce the likelihood of a fire starting in your home.
- The risk of accidents in the kitchen increases if you have been drinking; get take-away food instead of cooking.
- Don’t take risks with portable heaters; make sure there is sufficient distance between the portable heater and any combustible material.
- Many fire deaths, where alcohol is a contributing factor, involve people who live alone; if you have family or friends who live alone, pay them a visit and make sure their home is safe from fire.
- Alcohol may affect your judgement: don’t take risks tackling a fire; Get Out, Stay Out and Get the Fire Service Out.
- Take extra care if you have consumed any alcohol, and remember to carry out a bedtime routine.
Many fires start at night. Make sure you have a night time fire safety routine to help keep you and your loved ones safe:
- Switch off and unplug all electrical appliances not designed to stay on.
- Before emptying ashtrays, make sure the contents are cold.
- Check soft furnishings where people have been smoking.
- Switch off portable heaters.
- Fit a spark guard to open hearth fires.
- Close the doors of all rooms.
- Check that keys to doors and window locks are easily available.
- Keep all hallways and stairs clear from obstructions.
It is vitally important to remember that a candle is an open flame in your home which will ignite any flammable material that it comes into contact with:
- Always keep a burning candle within sight.
- Extinguish all candles when leaving a room or before going to sleep- be sure the wick ember is no longer glowing.
- Never burn a candle on or near anything that can catch fire- keep them away from furniture, curtains, bedding, carpets, books, flammable decorations, etc.
- Keep burning candles out of reach of children and pets.
- Trim candlewicks to ¼ inch each time before burning; long or crooked wicks can cause uneven burning and dripping.
- Always use a candleholder specifically designed for candle use; the holder should be heat resistant, sturdy, and large enough to contain any drips or melted wax.
- Always read and follow the manufacturer’s use and safety instructions carefully. Don’t burn a candle longer than the manufacturer recommends.
- Don’t burn a candle all the way down. Extinguish the flame if it comes too close to the holder or container. For a margin of safety, discontinue burning a candle when 2 inches of wax remains or ½ inch if in a container.
- Never touch or move a burning candle when the wax is liquid.
- Extinguish a candle if it repeatedly smokes, flickers, or the flame becomes too high as these indicate it is not burning properly. Cool, trim the wick, then check for drafts before relighting.
- Never use a candle as a night light.
All boilers and fuel burning appliances have the potential to produce Carbon Monoxide (CO), and so it is important that they are serviced annually by a qualified engineer registered with the appropriate organisation.
Every CO alarm is different, so follow the manufacturer’s instructions regarding frequency of testing. You should press the ‘Test’ button on each CO detector to ensure it is working.
Should your alarm activate or you suspect the presence of CO, is to isolate all possible sources, ventilate the property and get out. Call your qualified registered engineer to determine if there has been a leak of CO. Remember TASK:
- T – Turn off or extinguish all fuel burning appliances if safe to do so.
- A – Air – Open all doors and windows to increase ventilation in the property and go outside and stay out in clean fresh air.
- S – Seek medical assistance if you feel unwell. Go to your GP or nearest Accident and Emergency. For medical emergencies call 999 and ask for an ambulance.
- K – Keep all appliances turned off until checked by a qualified registered engineer.
Help prevent chimney fires by following this advice:
- Do not overfill an open fire grate in case coals fall out.
- Always use a spark guard, and if you have young children or pets, consider using a safety guard.
- Make sure the fire is out before going to bed at night or leaving the house.
- Never interrupt the air supply by blocking air vents or air bricks.
- Ensure you use a suitably trained person to service your chimney or flue.
- Avoid leaving cooking unattended; if you have to leave the kitchen, turn the cooker off and take the saucepans off the heat.
- Don’t cook if you are tired, have been drinking alcohol or have taken medication that could make you drowsy; you could easily fall asleep.
- Remember, never throw water on an oil fire as it could create a fireball.
Chip and grill pans are one of the most common causes of fire in the home, but if you follow some simple guidelines you’ll keep your kitchen safe:
- Never fill a pan more than one third full of fat of oil.
- Never leave the pan unattended when the heat is switched on.
- Never put the food in the pan if the oil begins to give off smoke; turn off the heat and leave the oil to cool, otherwise it could catch fire. Better still, use a deep fat fryer.
- Keep your grill pan clean, and never leave it unattended.
If your pan does catch fire:
- Do not move it.
- Turn off the heat if safe to do so, but never lean over the pan.
- Never throw water on the fire.
During the current COVID-19 pandemic, our community is spending more time at home than usual. We want people to stay as safe as possible and continue to follow our STOP Fire advice.
To ensure your home is ‘Gas Safe’, all your gas appliances should be safety checked once a year by a ‘Gas Safe’ registered engineer. If you have any doubt about the safety of an appliance contact a ‘Gas Safe’ registered engineer.
- Purchase your gas appliances from a reputable outlet with a full instruction booklet. If you move house or sell the appliance, pass on the instruction book to the new owner. These may also be found on the manufacturer’s website for download.
- Never attempt to ‘Do it Yourself’ on a gas installation.
- When purchasing a property, always check that any gas appliances have been suitably installed and regularly serviced by a ‘Gas Safe’ registered engineer.
- If you have any doubt about the safety of an appliance, contact a ‘Gas Safe’ registered engineer.
- Air vents allow a constant and sufficient supply of air to ensure appliances work efficiently. Never block these air vents. Blocking ventilation is dangerous and could result in the build up of Carbon Monoxide (CO) in your home.
- Fit a CO alarm, and ensure you follow the manufacturer’s instructions to locate the alarm in the correct place.
- Know how to turn your gas supply off in an emergency.
The number of people using e-cigarettes has increased dramatically in recent years and this rise has also seen an increase in safety concerns.
- Follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully; battery capacities and charging voltages vary according to the manufacturer so it’s important to check you are using the correct charger.
- Look for the CE mark that indicates the e-cigarette carries European Certification; ensure chargers also comply with the same safety standards; avoid buying counterfeit or substandard goods.
- Ensure that e-cigarettes are not left charging for long periods of time and don’t leave e-cigarettes charging on flammable surfaces.
- Never leave e-cigarettes plugged in overnight or whilst you are out of the house.
- Never use a vaping device close to medical oxygen, flammable emollient creams or airflow mattresses.
- Never charge a battery that has been dropped or shows signs of damage.
- Never modify or adapt personal vaporisers and their associated kit.
- Keep e-cigarette nicotine fluids out of the reach of children.
Follow this advice around electric blankets:
- The Electrical Safety Council recommends that if your blanket is over 10 years old, you should consider disposing of it safely and buying a new one.
- When purchasing a new electric blanket, ensure you buy from a reputable supplier and always look out for third party certification marks on the packaging and on the blanket.
- Do not keep the electric blanket switched on overnight unless it has a thermostatic control and is designed to be left on over this period.
- Never use the blanket if it is wet or damp and never switch it on to dry it out.
- Examine your electric blanket regularly for signs of wear or damage, such as scorch marks or discolouration areas on the fabric, worn or frayed fabric, or wires visible through the fabric.
Fires in the home can be caused by faulty electrical appliances, plugs and cables but many occur due to mistakes from homeowners. Follow this advice around electricals:
- Don’t overload electrical sockets.
- Use the correct fuse.
- Don’t dry clothes close to electric heaters.
- Look for the CE mark when buying electrical equipment.
- Never use electrical appliances in a bathroom due to the risk of electrocution.
- Never allow water to touch electrics – this can cause electrocution or fire.
- Switch off appliances at night unless they are designed to be left on eg. fridge/freezers.
- Hair straighteners can get extremely hot. Switch off after use and leave to cool on a heatproof surface.
- Only buy approved chargers for rechargeable devices; cheaper options may be unsafe.
- Do not over-charge devices and always unplug before going to bed at night.
- Do not charge devices on a flammable surface; this increases the risk of fire spread.
- Servicing of electrical appliances, especially ones that run at high speeds, should be carried out annually by a qualified electrician/engineer.
If a fire occurs in your home, you may have to get out in dark and difficult conditions. Escaping from a fire will be a lot easier if you have already planned your escape route as a family and everyone knows where to go. When making your plan consider these points:
- Involve everyone in the house.
- The normal way out is the preferred choice.
- Keep your escape route clear of obstructions.
- Protect your escape route by closing all doors into it, especially at night.
- Practice using the agreed plan.
- Select a safe meeting place outside.
- Make everyone aware of how to call NIFRS.
- If there are vulnerable people, think about who will raise the alarm and help them.
If you are unable to use the normal way out, consider alternative routes such as rear doors, patio doors and windows.
Make sure everyone is aware of these alternatives. If you discover a fire, or the smoke alarm sounds, you will only have a short time to get out. If possible:
- Close the door of the room where the fire is.
- Get everyone out as quickly as possible.
- Phone NIFRS on 999 from a neighbour’s house or mobile phone.
- Never go back into a house until a Fire Officer has told you it is safe to do so.
If you are cut off by fire, try to remain calm:
- Close the door and use towels or sheets to block any gaps.
- Try to make your way to the window.
- If the room becomes smoky, crawl along the floor.
- Open the window and try to attract the attention of others.
We advise people not to try and tackle fires, even if they think it’s only a small fire. Fires can develop and spread rapidly, and thick black smoke can quickly fill a property which could ultimately prevent you escaping safely from the building.
Check the fire safety arrangements for your building; these will advise you on the building’s specific fire safety plan and in the event of a fire will determine your emergency plan:
- Make a fire escape plan and practice what you an those you live with would do if you had a real fire in your flat.
- Make sure stairways and fire escape routes are kept clear of all obstructions and check that doors on escape routes are never locked and can open from both sides.
- Never tamper with internal fire mains (dry or wet riser) inlets on landings. These provide water to Firefighters when there is an emergency.
- If you see a dry riser vandalised or damaged, report it immediately to the management for the building and to NIFRS.
- Never use or store bottled gas cylinders in high-rise flats.
- Never park or block access to high-rise flats. Access roads are designed so that fire appliances can get as close as possible to fight fires.
In the event of a fire:
- If there is a fire elsewhere in the building, then the structure of your flat is designed to give you the appropriate protection; you are usually safer to stay in your flat unless the heat and smoke is affecting you.
- If you stay put, you should still call 999 for advice and to ensure attending crews have been notified.
- If there is a fire inside your flat, the advice from NIFRS is to get out immediately; do not delay your evacuation by trying to extinguish the fire yourself.
- If there is a lot of smoke in your flat, crawl along the floor where the air is clearer.
- Alert all the people in your flat and close all doors behind you as you exit.
- Follow your fire escape plan.
- Always use the stairs rather than a lift and call 999 as soon as you are in a safe place.
- Never assume that someone else has called 999 and if possible alert neighbours about the fire; bang on their doors on your way out.
- If it is too dangerous to follow your escape route because the hallway and stairs are filled with smoke, stay inside the safest room and dial 999.
- Keep the door closed and pack blankets or clothes around the door to keep smoke out, and hang a towel or similar item out of the window to let Firefighters know your location when they arrive.
Hoarding can increase the risk of a fire occurring and makes it more difficult for people living within the property to evacuate safely. Plan and practice how to escape from your home if there is a fire.
As the population lives longer, there is more emphasis on providing support and care in the community to allow people to remain independent for as long as possible. As a result, the number of people falling within NIFRS’ People at Risk categories will increase.
Some of the factors which make people more vulnerable to fire include living with the effects of old age (eg. dementia), being a smoker, and increased use of alcohol.
You can improve the fire safety for those living alone by following this advice:
- Install a smoke alarm on all levels of your property. A working smoke alarm will give you vital time needed to escape a fire. Never remove the battery or take your alarm off its back plate unless it’s to replace the battery or install a new alarm.
- Take care when cooking, especially if you have been drinking alcohol. It’s better to install a heat alarm in your kitchen rather than a smoke alarm
- Never overload electrical sockets; remember one plug per socket.
- Make a fire escape plan – know where you keep door keys at night and keep your escape routes clear.
- Have a bedtime routine – close inside doors at night to stop a fire from spreading, turn off and unplug electrical appliances unless they are designed to be left on and put out candles and cigarettes properly.
Every year many fires are started by children playing with matches, resulting in serious injury or even death.
- Never let children play with matches or cigarette lighters.
- Teach children not to play with fire.
- Keep matches and lighters where children are not tempted to play with them.
Oxygen is colourless, odourless and tasteless and when used correctly it is safe and effective. However, if used incorrectly the consequences are significant which can prove fatal. Follow the guidance from your oxygen supplier.
Never smoke a cigarette or use an e-cigarette whilst on oxygen therapy or close to a patient using oxygen equipment.
Always follow the manufacturer’s operating and maintenance instructions. Turn off portable heaters whilst sleeping. Ensure there is at least one metre distance from any combustible material such as furniture, bedding or curtains.
More people die in fires caused by smoking than any other cause.
Fires caused by smoking materials are preventable. By following our guidance, smokers, family members, carers and friends of vulnerable smokers could save their own, or someone else’s life.
- Never leave a burning cigarette unattended or pipe unattended – it may fall onto the furniture or carpet which can catch fire.
- Never smoke in a chair if you think you may doze off.
- Never smoke in bed.
A smoke alarm is a warning device that detects smoke at the earliest stages of a fire, giving you vital extra time to escape.
You should fit a minimum of one smoke alarm on every level of your home, ideally on the hallway or landing ceilings.
Smoke alarms cost around £5 and are simple to install. They are widely available from DIY, hardware, electrical shops and some supermarkets.
It is a good idea to link two or more alarms. This way, smoke detected in the living room or kitchen will set off another alarm in the bedroom. An electrician will be able to advise you about linking the alarms.
It’s better to install a heat alarm in your kitchen rather than a smoke alarm.
- Choose an alarm which meets British Standard BS 5446-1 and carries the Kitemark.
- Follow the manufacturer’s instructions of how to fit and position the alarm.
- Test your smoke alarm every week.
- Replace the battery once a year or consider fitting a ten year battery.
- If you have a doubt as to where to position your smoke alarm, contact us.
For people who would not be able to hear a conventional alarm, there are special devices available which make use of a vibrating pad or flashing light instead of the audible signal.
Further information is available from the Royal National Institute for the Deaf.
People can store hazardous goods in garages, cupboards and sheds, unaware of the dangers if they are not handled or stored correctly. If the substance is ignitable, corrosive, toxic or reactive, then it is hazardous. A large number of household chemicals and materials fit these categories.
Safe use of hazardous substances:
- Only use as much product as you need.
- Properly ventilate the area by opening windows or go outside.
- Wear proper protective clothing, when necessary, like gloves, long sleeves and a mask.
- Don’t leave the product unattended- if you have to leave the area in the middle of a task, put the product away, take it with you or make it safe.
- Some household cleaners, eg., chlorine bleach and ammonia cannot be used together as it forms a toxic gas.
- Never smoke or have naked flames near hazardous substances.
- When filling lawnmowers with fuel ensure you are in fresh air and not in a garage or shed and away from ignition sources.
- After using the substance, wash any part of your body that came into direct contact with it as per the manufacturer’s instructions.
Safe storage of hazardous substances:
- Store hazardous substances by following the instructions on the label.
- Ensure the container used to store it is suitable and safe to contain it.
- Keep the contents locked up and out of reach of children.
- Never store hazardous substances near foodstuff or cooking utensils.
- If a substance leaks or is expired, you should dispose of it properly.
- Never pour substances down drains- follow the disposal advice on the label or take it to your local recycling centre who will dispose of it safely.
All universities and colleges have a person responsible for fire safety in their buildings. If you have spotted a fire risk or have any concerns about fire safety in university buildings, then speak to them.
If you have a disability and need assistance to evacuate in the event of a fire, make the university aware. Make sure you pay attention to fire drills and never ignore alarms.
Many students live in Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) where fire alarm systems, emergency lighting, fire doors and extinguishers are provided for your safety.
Here is some basic safety advice to help students who may be living away from home for the first time:
- Keep the cooker and grill pan clean and free from the build-up of any oils or grease.
- Don’t leave the cooker unattended when in use, not even for a minute.
- Don’t cook if you have been drinking alcohol, especially late at night- get a takeaway instead.
- Never put water on an oil fire or grill pan fire as it will turn into a fireball.
Candles and Smoking
- Take extra care when smoking inside, it is safer to smoke outside.
- Empty ashtrays regularly and ensure cigarettes are completely extinguished before putting into the outside bin.
- Never smoke in bed and make sure that you have extinguished cigarettes properly before going to sleep.
- Keep candles and tea-lights away from flammable surfaces or textiles eg. curtains, televisions, bath tubs.
- If you do use candles, never leave them unattended and ensure you use a proper holder.
- Remember to extinguish candles before going to bed at night.
Heating and Electrics
- Plugging too many electrical items into one socket can lead to overheating; it is good practice to keep one plug to one socket.
- Use trailing leads rather than block type connectors.
- Switch off and unplug appliances at night unless they are designed to be kept on eg. fridge / freezers.
- Switch off and unplug any charging devices before going to bed.
- Hair straighteners can get extremely hot; switch off after use and leave to cool on a heatproof surface.
- Only buy approved chargers for rechargeable devices; cheaper options may be unsafe.
- Never place portable heaters too close to combustible surfaces or materials.
- Position portable heaters safely and never leave on if you have to leave the house.
Prepare and Plan
- Many fires happen at night when occupants are asleep; always carry out a night-time check and close all doors before going to bed to reduce the risk.
- Plan your escape route. Make sure everyone knows the quickest way out in the event of a fire and consider an alternative route. Keep escape routes clear of clutter.