Home safety
Acting to Protect & Save
Fire safety in the home
Protecting your home
It is the aim of Devon & Somerset Fire
& Rescue Service to provide help and
advice to prevent fires from occurring.
The damage caused by fire in the home
has devastating consequences and so
many incidents we attend can be easily
We will always be there to help in an emergency
should your preventative measures fail.
This booklet has been produced to give you
guidance and advice on how to ensure your
home is protected from fire.
•call 999
You can prevent most fires in the home by being
aware of the dangers that will help you avoid the
risk of a fire starting in your home.
After reading through this booklet we suggest
you complete the check list at the back. It will
only take a few minutes and the advice and
guidance it contains could save your life or that
of a family member.
Remember, if a fire breaks out in your home
•get out
•stay out
If you rent out your home or use it for
Child-minding, you may need a higher
standard of fire safety. Please visit our
website for further information.
www.dsfire.gov.uk Statistics show that you’re twice as likely
to die in a fire if you don’t have a smoke
alarm that works. More people die from
the smoke inhalation rather than the
fire itself.
An average of 90 people die each year
due to the battery in their alarm being flat
or missing.
Smoke alarms
• Smoke alarms are inexpensive
and easy to install.
• They are available from DIY stores, electrical shops and most high street supermarkets.
• There are a variety of different models to choose from. Look out for one of these symbols, which
show the alarm is approved and safe.
Types of smoke alarms available
Alarms that have ten year batteries is the preferred
option, however alarms which require the battery to
be replaced regularly are quite acceptable.
Ionisation alarms are generally more effective
at detecting fast; flaming fires which consume
combustible materials rapidly and spread fire
quickly e.g paper, flaming curtains, oil.
These are the cheapest and most readily
available, starting at as little as £5.00.
Optical alarms are more effective at detecting
slow burning fires e.g overheated wiring.
Optical alarms are less likely to go off
accidentally and as such are best for ground-floor hallways and for homes
on one level.
Strobe light and vibrating-pad alarms are
available for those who are deaf or hard
of hearing.
Mains powered alarms are powered by your home power supply. They need to be installed
by a qualified electrician.
It is possible to have linked alarms installed,
so that when one alarm detects a fire they all go off together. This is useful if you live in a
large house or over several levels or for people with hearing difficulties.
Fitting your smoke alarm
• A smoke alarm should be fitted on each level
of your property.
• The ideal position is on the ceiling, in the
middle of a room, hallway and landing,
so you can hear the alarm throughout
your home.
• The alarm should be fitted at least 30cm
away from a wall or light fitting.
• Do not put alarms in or near kitchens or
bathrooms where smoke or steam can set
them off by accident.
• Follow the instructions supplied with the alarm and keep the manufacturer’s instructions for
future reference.
Prices start at about £15.00.
Testing your smoke alarm
•If you have a standard battery alarm you will
need to change the battery once a year. We
recommend that you do this on a date that is
easy to remember, for example, your birthday
or a special anniversary.
• Never disconnect, remove or take the
batteries out of your alarm if it goes off by
mistake – refer to manufacturer’s instructions
as to what to do next (If batteries are
changeable it could simply be that they
need replacing).
Make checking your smoke alarm part
of your regular household routine
• Every three months if you can, open the
case and gently vacuum using a vacuum
fitted with the soft brush attachment –
if the case doesn’t open, vacuum over
and around the case of the alarm.
• If your smoke alarm starts to beep on a
regular basis, you need to replace the
battery immediately unless it is a 10 year alarm.
• All alarms should be renewed after a 10 years.
• Alarms with 10 year batteries still require
• Test all smoke alarms every week,
always follow manufacturer’s instructions.
Kitchen safety
How to prevent common fires
Over half of home fires are caused by
cooking accidents.
• Keep the oven, hob and grill clean and in
good working order. A build up of fat and grease can catch fire.
• Avoid leaving children in the kitchen alone when cooking on the hob.
• Keep matches and sauce pan handles out
of the reach of children to keep them safe.
• Take care if you’re wearing loose clothing – they can easily catch fire.
• Keep tea towels and cloths away from the cooker and hob.
• Use spark devices to light gas cookers as
they are safer than matches and lighters
as they don’t have a naked flame.
Deep fat frying
What to do if a pan catches fire:
• Take care when cooking with hot oil –
it sets alight easily.
• turn off the heat if it’s safe to do so
• Don’t fill the pan more than a third full of oil.
• don’t tackle the fire yourself.
• Double check the cooker is off when
you’ve finished cooking.
• Make sure food is dry before putting it in
hot oil so it doesn’t splash.
• Don’t leave electrical wiring near or on top
of the cooker.
• If the oil starts to smoke – it’s too hot.
Turn off the heat and leave it to cool.
• Fire blankets are useful to wrap a person whose clothes are on fire.
• Use a thermostat controlled electric,
deep fat fryer - they can’t overheat.
•It is recommended that fire blankets are kept
near or in the kitchen.
• Do not leave cooking unattended.
Fire blankets
• Don’t leave saucepan handles sticking out (this avoids them getting knocked off the stove).
• never throw water over it
Toasters and microwaves
Wheat bags
• Check toasters are clean and crumbs
emptied out regularly.
Wheat bags are heating pads that usually
contain buckwheat or wheatgrass, which
can be warmed in a microwave.
• Ensure toasters are placed away from
curtains and kitchen rolls and do not use
directly underneath overhanging cupboards.
• Follow the instructions carefully for use of
• Only use as a heat pack for direct
application to the body.
• Never put anything metal in the microwave.
• Ensure your microwave turntable is working properly.
• Never leave your microwave or toaster
unattended whilst it is in use.
• Watch for signs of overuse such as burning or charring.
• Always follow the manufacturers instuctions.
• Leave bags to cool in a safe area
and on a non-combustible surface.
• Don’t use a wheat bag as a bed warmer.
• Don’t overheat the bag.
• Ensure the bag is not reheated until it has
completely cooled – this can take up to two
• Don’t leave the microwave unattended
when heating.
• Do not store the bag until it has completely
• If you see evidence of damage, do not use
your wheatbag.
cool down
Take care with electrics
Faulty electrics, appliances, wiring and
overloaded sockets are the cause of around
7000 house fires across the country every year.
• Certain appliances, such as washing
machines, should have a single plug to
themselves, as they are high powered.
How to avoid electrical fires
• Remember to check and replace any old
cables and leads.
• Make sure an electrical appliance has a British or European safety mark when you buy it.
• Keep electrics (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.
• 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 fire.
Appliances use different amounts of power –
a television may use a 3amp plug and a
vacuum cleaner a 5amp plug for example.
• Keep electrical appliances clean and in good working order to prevent them starting a fire.
• Watch for signs of dangerous or loose wiring such as: scorch marks; hot plugs and sockets; fuses that blow; circuit breakers that trip for
no obvious reasons; flickering lights.
• Don’t position lights or bulbs near curtains and other fabrics. The heat, which you cannot see, will set the fabric above alight within hours.
• Ensure you have the correct bulb for the
light fitting.
• When installing lights, such as down-lighters, only use a qualified electrician.
Using an electric blanket
Portable heaters
• Don’t leave electric blankets folded as
this damages the internal wiring. Store
them flat or rolled up instead.
• Try to secure heaters up against a wall to
stop them falling over.
• Never use the blanket if it is wet and
never switch it on to dry it out.
• Unplug blankets before you get into bed, unless it has a thermostat control for safe all-night use.
• Don’t buy second hand blankets.
• Check regularly for wear and tear.
• Have your blanket checked by a qualified
electrician at least every three years.
• Keep them clear from curtains and furniture and never use them for drying clothes.
• Don’t put anything on top of heaters.
• Do not move a heater while it is switched on.
• Ensure your appliances are regularly serviced by a qualified engineer.
• Do not leave young children or pets
unattended in areas where portable
heaters are switched on.
• If your blanket is older than 10 years you should
replace it.
Open fires, wood-burners
and multi fuel stoves
Carbon monoxide (CO)
• Always place a fireguard around the fire.
You can’t see it! You can’t taste it! You can’t
smell it!
• Do not overfill fire baskets.
CO is the most common form of household poison.
• Only burn suitable items in solid fuel burners.
• Have chimneys swept regularly.
• Dispose of ash appropriately after you have
allowed it to cool completely.
• Do not dry or air clothes on a fireguard.
• Ensure fires are extinguished before you
go to bed.
• Never use petrol or paraffin to light your fire.
CO gas is produced by incomplete burning of
carbon-based fuels, including gas, oil,
wood and coal. Carbon-based fuels are safe to
use. It is only when the fuel does not
burn properly that excess CO is produced, which
is poisonous.
Poisoning occurs when gas appliances and flues
have not been properly installed,
maintained or are poorly ventilated.
The symptoms
The early symptoms of poisoning can be
easily confused with many common ailments
and can develop quickly or over a number or
days or months.
Look out for:
• a headache – this is the most common symptom
• feeling sick and dizzy
• feeling tired and confused
• being sick and having stomach pain
• shortness of breath and difficulty breathing.
The danger signs
• Yellow or orange rather than blue flames
(except fuel effect fires or flueless appliances which display this colour flame).
• Soot or yellow/brown staining around or
on appliances.
• Pilot lights that frequently blow out.
• Increased condensation inside windows.
Take action
Top tips for prevention
If you think you have carbon monoxide
poisoning, you should:
• Installation, repair and regular servicing of
any gas and fossil fuel appliances and flues and chimneys should be done by a Gas
Safe registered engineer.
• seek urgent medical advice from either
you GP or your A&E department
• open the windows and doors to ventilate
the room, and don’t sleep in it
• Make sure you have good ventilation and enough fresh air in the room containing your
gas appliance.
• switch off all your gas appliances and don’t use them again until the problem has been fixed
• Ensure chimneys/flues aren’t blocked and vents aren’t covered.
• shut off the gas supply at the meter control valve • Get your chimney swept from top to bottom
– if gas continues to escape, call the Gas
at least once a year by a qualified sweep.
Emergency free phone number on 0800 111 999
• call a Gas Safe registered engineer to
check all your gas appliances.
Gas safe engineers
You can check if an engineer is on the register by
visiting the website: www.gassaferegister.co.uk
Carbon monoxide alarms
Carbon Monoxide alarms are useful but
aren’t a substitute for proper installation
and maintenance of gas appliances.
Make sure the alarm meets British Standard
EN50291 and ideally the British Standard
Kite mark. You should install, check and
service CO alarms according to the
manufacturer’s instructions.
CO alarms are available from DIY and
hardware stores.
Cigarettes can burn at temperatures of over
700 degrees centigrade – they are hotter than
you think!
• Stub cigarettes out properly and dispose
of them carefully.
• Never smoke in bed.
• Don’t leave a lit cigarette, cigar or pipe lying around. They can easily fall over and start a fire.
• Use a proper ashtray – never a wastepaper basket.
• Make sure your ashtray can’t tip over and
is made of a material that can’t burn.
• 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 reaches.
• Consider buying child resistant lighters and
match boxes.
• It is safer to smoke outside.
Candles, joss sticks and
oil/incense burners
More than 50 fires a day are started by candles
Tea lights (sometimes known as night-lights)
• Make sure candles are secured in a
proper holder and away from materials
that may catch fire – like curtains.
Tea lights present a high risk. They have a foil
outer container; however this is not a suitable holder.
This foil container can get extremely hot and melt
surfaces on which it is placed making it a fire hazard.
• Put candles out when you leave the room and
make sure they’re put out completely at night
– never leave burning candles unattended.
• Use a snuffer or a spoon to put out candles.
It’s safer than blowing them out when sparks can fly.
Always ensure that your furniture has the
fire-resistant permanent label.
• Children shouldn’t be left alone with lit candles.
Planning a safe escape
Fitting a smoke alarm is the first crucial step to protecting yourself from fire. But what would you
do if it went off during the night? This section will help you make a plan ready for an emergency.
Be prepared by making an escape plan
•Plan an escape route and make sure
everyone who lives in or visits your home
knows how to escape.
•Make sure the escape routes and 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 moments to practice your
escape plan.
•If the layout of your home changes or
circumstances change, review your plan.
•Keep door and window keys where
everyone can find them.
What to do if there is a fire
• Don’t tackle the fire yourself. Leave it to
the professionals.
•Keep calm and act quickly, get everyone out
as soon as possible by following your escape
plan and always close doors behind you.
• Don’t waste time investigating what’s
happened or rescuing valuables or pets.
• If there’s smoke, keep low where the air is clear.
• 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.
What to do if your escape route is blocked
How to escape from a high level building
• If you can’t get out, get everyone into one room, ideally with a window and a phone.
• Avoid using lifts and balconies if there is a fire.
• Put bedding around the bottom of the door
to block out the smoke, then open the
window and call “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.
• It is easy to get confused in smoke, so count how many doors you need to go through
to reach the stairs.
• Check there is nothing in the corridors or
stairways that could catch fire – like boxes
or rubbish. Always keep exits clear.
• Make sure doors to stairways are not locked.
• Make sure everyone in the building knows where the fire alarms are.
• You should still get a smoke alarm for your
own home, even if there is a warning system
in the block.
What to do if your clothes catch fire
When children are in the home
• Don’t run around, you’ll make the flames worse.
• Fires account for nearly half of all
accidental child deaths.
• Put child locks on cupboards that have anything in them that children could use to start a fire.
• 6000 fires a year are caused by
children under the age of 10.
• Keep portable heaters in a safe place, both when they’re being used and when they’re being stored.
Make your home fire-safe for children. It is
crucial to be aware that children can start
a fire in moments, but only if they can get
hold of materials that can start fire.
• Put plug guards into sockets so children
can’t stick things into the holes.
• Lie down and roll around. It makes it harder
for the fire to spread.
• Smother the flames with a heavy material like
a coat or blanket.
•Remember, stop, drop and roll!
• Keep matches and lighters out of reach and
out of sight of children.
• Keep your escape route clear of toys and
other obstructions.
• Don’t leave children alone in the home.
• Unplug appliances that children could trip over.
• Position lighted candles out of reach of
children and pets.
• Put a childproof fire guard in front of an open
fire or heater if there are children in the house.
• Don’t let children play or leave toys near a
fire or heater.
Teach children about the dangers of fire
Fascination with fire
• You should tell children about how destructive
fire can be and how rapidly it can spread.
Older children may know that fire is dangerous,
but might not realise how uncontrollable it can
become, or that breathing toxic smoke can
quickly kill you.
• Hoax calls to the fire and rescue service puts lives in danger.
• Teach them how to be safe with fire.
• People caught making hoax calls can
be fined or imprisoned. The fire and
rescue service can recover costs from
responding to hoax calls.
• Encourage children to tell you if they find
matches or lighters. Let them see you being
careful about fire risks.
• Parents or guardians have a legal
responsibility for any illegal actions
carried out by children.
• Older children can take part in safe activities
with fire, like lighting a bonfire or a candle
while supervised by an adult.
• Children can play with fire for reasons other
than curiosity – for example, to get attention
or because of peer pressure.
• Devon & Somerset Fire and Rescue Service
offers a confidential service where a specially
trained fire advisor visits you and your child at home to give advice and education.
For more information contact Firesetters on
Some children can become dangerously
obsessed with fires. If you know children
who may be lighting fires deliberately,
you can do something about it.
e: firesetters@dsfire.gov.uk t: 01392 872315 w: www.dsfire.gov.uk
Living in a rented home
By law your landlord must:
Make a bedtime check
Landlords don’t always have a legal responsibility
to fit a smoke alarm, but under the 2004
Housing Act they must make sure there are
adequate escape routes and depending on
the size they may have to fit smoke alarms
and provide fire extinguishers.
• make sure that all gas appliances they provide are maintained in good working order and that
a registered Gas Safe engineer carries out a safety check each year
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.
• ensure all electrical installations (fixed wiring, etc.) and any electrical appliances they provide (fridge, freezers, cookers etc.) all properly maintained
and safe to use
• Close inside doors at night to stop a fire
from spreading.
If you feel that your landlord hasn’t kept to the
Housing Act or if you need more information
about it, contact the local Environmental Health
Officer or Citizens Advice Bureau.
• ensure any furniture and furnishings they
provide meet the fire resistance regulations.
Check list
• 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 clear.
• Keep door and window keys where everyone can find them.
Regular checks and maintenance
Every day:
Every 3 years:
• make a bedtime check before you go to bed.
• have your electric blanket checked by a
qualified electrician.
Every week:
• test your smoke alarm/carbon monoxide alarm.
Every 3 months:
• vacuum off your alarm.
Every 10 years:
To ensure that you have read and understood all the safety advice contained within
this book please take a few minutes to read the following questions.
If there are any questions that you are unsure of the answer to, please turn
to the indicated page to familiarise yourself with the safety advice.
• service any major electrical appliances
• change your smoke alarm/electric blanket.
Check list
Every year:
1. Do you know the different types of smoke alarms available?
page 4
• have all gas appliances serviced by a
qualified engineer
2. Do you know how many smoke alarms to have and the best
place to position them?
page 5
• replace your smoke alarm battery (unless
it is a 10 year alarm)
3. Do you know how to maintain your smoke alarm?
page 7
4. Do you know how to make sure your smoke alarm works?
page 6
• ensure your house number/name can be
seen from the roadway by emergency services
• have your chimney swept to keep it clean
and prevent fires.
5. Do you know what shouldn’t be put in a microwave?
page 10
6. Do you know the maximum capacity of an extension lead or adaptor?
page 12-13
7. Do you know the safest deep-fat fryer you can use?
page 9
8. If you use a chip pan, do you know how much oil to use?
page 9
9. Do you know what to do if a pan catches fire?
page 9
10. Do you know the correct way to use and store electric blankets?
page 14
11. Do you know the best place to position a portable heater?
page 15
12. Do you know about safety checks for gas appliances
and the dangers of Carbon Monoxide?
page 17
13. Do you know the dangers of smoking in bed?
page 20
14. Do you know how best to position and secure candles?
page 21
15. Do you know the fire safety check you should carry out
every night before you go to bed?
page 31
16. Do you know why you should close room doors at night
before you go to sleep?
page 31
17. Do you have an escape plan?
page 22
18. Do you know what to do if there’s a fire?
page 22-23
19. Do you know what to do if your escape route is blocked?
page 25
20. Do you know what to do if your clothes catch fire?
page 26
21. If you live in a high-rise building, do you know the extra precautions
you need to take when making your escape plan?
page 25
22. If you have or care for children, do you know the extra precautions
you need to take to keep them and your home safe?
page 27-28
Contact us
01392 872200
To request any information in this document in an alternative format or
language please call 0800 731 1822 or email firesafety@dsfire.gov.uk
Acting to Protect & Save