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Introduction

Although over 50% of accidental fires are caused by cooking, smoker’s materials are the main cause in fatal fires in the home. Research studies into the causes of fires have indicated that some members of the community are much more at risk of having a fire than others.

Key factors could include:

  • Age
  • Mental health issues
  • Limited mobility
  • Living alone
  • Poor housekeeping including hoarding
  • Medication (both prescribed or otherwise)
  • Alcohol

If you or anyone you know could be considered at higher risk, you may be entitled to a free Home Safety Visit

For advice about staying safe in your home and to see if you are eligible for a home safety visit, contact:

Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service
Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm
Phone: 0800 05 02 999
Text: 078 00 00 2476
Email: firekills@dsfire.gov.uk

Information for people with sight, hearing and mobility difficulties and those who care for them is also available. Each page provides practical advice and tips that will help protect you from the risk of fire.

Fire safety in the home

Preventing fires and limiting the damage they cause is a top priority for the fire and rescue service. Follow our simple advice and top tips to ensure your home and the people you care about are safe.

  • Fit a working smoke alarm
  • Take care when cooking and never leave cooking food unattended
  • Plan and practice your escape route
  • Make a bedtime check
  • Do not overload your electrics
  • Put cigarettes right out
  • Use candles carefully
  • Have your chimney swept regularly

Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service has a page dedicated to giving you guidance and advice on how to ensure your home is protected from fire, please visit Top ways to reduce your risk of having a fire at home.

You can also use this online home safety check to assess the hazards in your own home and be given advice and a safety action plan to reduce the risk of a fire starting in your household.

Smoke Alarms

You are 4 times more likely to die in a domestic fire if you don’t have a working smoke alarm.

  • You should have working smoke alarms fitted on every level of your home. They give you vital time to ‘get out, stay out and call 999’ if ever you are unlucky enough to have a fire
  • It is crucial that you test them regularly – we advise once a week
  • A smoke alarm with the batteries missing is useless. Do not remove them as you do not know when the alarm will be needed, and it could save your life.
  • Change the battery every year (unless it’s a ten-year alarm) or when you need to. Alarms give out an intermittent bleep to let you know the battery’s running low

For more information on smoke alarms visit Smoke alarms.

What to do in the event of a fire

Acting quickly can save your life. If there is a fire, you need to make sure you and everyone in your house knows what to do. Get out, stay out, call 999.

Raise the alarm. Let everyone in the house know about the fire, shout and get everyone together.

Get everyone out. You should have your escape route planned and everyone in your house should be familiar with it. If you do not already have an escape plan, you can find advice by visiting How to make an escape plan.

Safety in the kitchen

More than half of accidental fires in the home are started by cooking. It is easy to avoid this by following these guidelines:

Always remember to ‘Watch that pan – watch the heat’:

  • Make sure you don’t get distracted when you are cooking
  • Take pans off the heat, or turn the heat down, if you need to leave the kitchen
  • Make sure handles do not stick out, so pans don’t get knocked off the hob
  • Take care if you are wearing loose clothing, which can easily catch fire, and keep tea towels and cloths a safe distance away from the cooker
  • Never leave children alone in the kitchen
  • Double-check the cooker is off when you have finished
  • Don’t cook if you have been drinking alcohol or taken medication that makes you drowsy
  • Take time to teach older children safety in the kitchen
  • Never put a tea towel to dry on your cooker as the heat can be enough to catch them alight

For advice and general tips for staying safe in the kitchen visit Fire safety in the kitchen

Smoking in the home

Sadly, one in three fire deaths in the South West are caused by smoker’s materials. Do not become the next victim, follow our advice to keep safe.

The best way to protect your family from the dangers of smoking inside the home is by choosing to smoke outside.

Not only are you drastically reducing the risk of a fire in the home, but you are also providing a cleaner, healthier living environment for your loved ones.

Find more information about smoking in the home Smoking, vaping and e-cigarettes.

Carbon monoxide alarms

You cannot see it, taste or smell it, but it can kill you quickly with no warning. Carbon monoxide (CO) is a highly poisonous gas. It is created when fossil fuels such as natural gas and solid fuels like charcoal and wood fail to combust fully, because of a lack of oxygen.

It can come out of gas appliances and chimney flues, and even barbecues. Which is why you should never take a smouldering or lit barbecue indoors, or into anywhere like a tent or caravan. Even if you have finished cooking, your barbecue will give off fumes for hours after use.

If you have a gas boiler or solid fuel appliance a carbon monoxide alarm should be fitted in your home which will warn you if it is too high. You can also get portable, battery-powered alarms to use if you go camping, caravanning and travelling. Carbon monoxide alarms should be marked with EN50291 and have the British Standards Kite mark or another European approval organisation’s mark on it.

To learn more about carbon monoxide and alarms visit Carbon monoxide advice.

Electrical Safety

Faulty electrics, appliances, wiring and overloaded sockets cause around 7,000 house fires across the country every year.

Discover more about Electrical safety

Chimneys and open fires

Used carefully, open fires can make your home warm and welcoming. Most chimney fires are preventable, and there are lots of things you can do to stay safe.

Chimneys that are not swept regularly will have soot deposits which may fall back down the chimney, setting fire to carpets and furniture. Clean chimneys are the safest ones. They should be swept regularly to avoid the build-up of soot, as well as debris and obstructions according to the fuel:

  • smokeless/oil/gas – at least once a year
  • bituminous coal – at least twice a year
  • wood – quarterly when in use

Do not overload the fire with fuel and avoid burning inappropriate waste, like food, green timber, plastic and medium-density fibreboard (MDF). Flammable liquids such as petrol or paraffin should never be used to light the fire.

Spark guards or fireguards can prevent sparks or embers igniting carpets or furniture. Always use a fireguard in front of the fire if there are children in the property and never dry anything on your fireguard.

For more advice about chimneys and open fires visit Chimneys, open fires and log burners.

Landlords

The law and regulations can often seem complicated and vague. With the right advice and guidance your property and your tenants can stay safe, whilst you meet any obligations that you have under the law.

If you are considering the purchase of a property to rent out in the future, then please think about the following advice and guidance for landlords.

Remember, good landlords usually attract good tenants. Simply ignoring fire safety is not going to save you money. It is a false economy and has the potential to cost lives not just profit.

Landlords are required by law to install working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms in their properties, under measures announced by Housing Minister Brandon Lewis on 11 March 2015. There have since been amendments to these regulations in 2022.

Tenants

If you are a tenant and confused about your landlords’ responsibilities towards fire safety, Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service provide advice for tenants. All landlords have responsibilities under different sets of legislation depending on the type of property.

Landlords must carry out the following by law as a minimum:

  • Gas appliances must be checked by a registered Gas Safe engineer every year
  • Electrical appliances must carry the British Safety Standard sign
  • Ensure furnishings they provide in their property are fire-resistant and meets safety regulations
  • Produce safety certificates to their residents, so they can see that gas and electrical appliances have been checked.
  • Under the 2004 Housing Act, a landlord must ensure there are adequate escape routes in the property

Contact Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service

West Somerset Area Command (Taunton/Bridgwater Group)
Chiltern House
Silver Street
Taunton
Somerset
TA1 3DH

Phone: 01823 364500
Fax: 01823 364545
Email: fsb@somerset.gov.uk
Website: Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service

Last reviewed: February 19, 2024 by Sophie

Next review due: August 19, 2024

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