Fire safety at home
How to prevent fires
You can take simple measures to prevent fires at home:
- keep rubbish away from public areas. Place it out on the morning of collection
- store rubbish in a secure area until collection time. This will make it difficult for intruders to set light to it
- do not leave rubbish, bikes, buggies, wheelchairs or prams in communal areas or block escape routes
- keep balconies free from clutter
- if you have a skip fill it up as soon as possible and get it collected promptly
- report any abandoned cars to the council
- don’t leave candles unattended
- shut doors: a door can give you 20 minutes of protection in a fire
- make sure that you close internal doors at night to stop fire from spreading
- stub out cigarettes and dispose of them properly
- never smoke in bed
- keep matches and lighters away from children
- keep clothing away from heating appliances
- fit a smoke alarm: they save lives. Test your alarm weekly and do not remove the battery
- make sure you know where your nearest fire exit is.
Install a smoke alarm
A smoke alarm is the easiest way to alert you of a fire and give you time to escape.
Have at least one working smoke alarm in your home
Ideally on the ceiling in the hallway but not in a kitchen or a bathroom. If your home has more than one floor, put a smoke alarm on each landing.
Test your alarm every week to check that it works.
You can buy battery operated smoke alarms from supermarkets and DIY stores. The London Fire Brigade carry out free home safety fire visits and fit smoke alarms for free if you need them.
If you have difficulty hearing, you can buy a smoke alarm that has a vibrating pad or a flashing light.
Know your fire plan
Think about how you could escape quickly and safely from your home if there was a fire.
If a fire starts, you need to get everyone safely out. The London Fire Brigade show how to plan your best escape route.
An escape plan can mean the difference between life and death:
- talk through your escape plan with everyone who lives in your home. Especially children and teenagers, older people, and lodgers
- choose the best escape route, which is normally your usual way in and out of your home
- choose a second escape route in case the first one is blocked. Always keep them both clear
- tell everyone where the keys to doors and windows are kept
- go through what to do in a fire
- act quickly and calmly once you become aware of a fire
- alert everyone: shout and get everyone together
- don’t delay: you can’t afford to waste any time
- get everyone out, using your escape route
- once you’ve escaped, call 999 (999 calls are free)
- don’t go back in for anything. If there is still someone inside wait for the fire brigade to arrive
- find somewhere safe to wait. When the fire brigade arrives, give as much information as you can about the fire and the building. Say if anyone is still inside.
Keep communal areas clear
You must keep corridors, walkways and exit doors clear.
If there’s a fire, this will help you leave the building quickly and safely.
The fire brigade will also be able to get to your property without obstacles in their way.
How do you find out more about your building's fire plan?
Your home’s fire safety plan depends on what kind of building you live in. You must know where the exit doors are and the fire evacuation plan for your building.
If you are a council tenant or leaseholder, contact your housing officer for more information about this.
If you are a private tenant in Tower Hamlets, contact your landlord.
If you are a leaseholder in a privately owned building, contact the owner (the freeholder), your residents’ management company or a managing agent.
Electrics and domestic appliances
- do not leave electrical appliances on standby. Always switch them off and unplug them when not in use
- don't overload electrical sockets. Only use one plug per socket. Check if you're overloading your sockets
- faulty electrical goods can cause fires. Take care with second-hand appliances. Ensure they have been safely checked and see if any products have been recalled
- you can register all of your domestic appliances. This lets the manufacturers know who to contact if a safety repair is needed
- always use the charger that came with your phone, tablet, e-cigarette or mobile device or a genuine replacement.
- counterfeit electrical chargers can be deadly. Many fail to meet UK safety regulations and lead to fires and injury.
- never leave pans unattended when you are cooking
- always check that you have switched the cooker off after cooking. Take extra care when cooking with hot oil
- consider buying a deep-fat fryer which is controlled by a thermostat
- don’t cook if you are tired, have been drinking alcohol or on medication that might make you drowsy
- keep the oven, hob, cooker hood, and grill clean, and in good working order
- never put anything metal in the microwave
- never use a barbeque / BBQ (including disposables) indoors or on a balcony
- if a cooking pan catches fire do not try to move the pan. Do not throw water onto the fire as it can create a fireball. If you can, safely turn off the heat
- leave the room and close the door. Shout to warn others to get out, stay out and call 999.
Stay safe when you go to bed
- close all doors to help to prevent fire spreading
- switch off and unplug electrical items such as TVs. Avoid charging devices like mobile phones when you are asleep
- only leave essential appliances (such as fridge or freezer) switched on. Turn all others off
- make sure candles are out before you go to bed
- check that your cooker and heaters are turned off
- turn off and unplug electric blankets before going to sleep
- make sure cigarettes are stubbed out properly and are disposed of carefully
- never smoke in bed
- do not leave electrical appliances on standby. Always switch them off and unplug them when not in use.
What to do if a fire starts in your home
Never try and tackle a fire yourself
You could put your own life and others in danger if the fire is in your flat.
You need to get everyone safely out. Know your best escape route.
- call 999
- some homes have more than one escape route. Where the front door is usually the main or preferred route of escape, your other escape route may be the balcony at the back of your home
- if you can, close the door of the room where the fire is and all doors behind you as you leave. This will help delay the spread of fire and smoke
- don’t try to pick up any personal items
- fire produces smoke and poisonous gases that can cause light-headedness or loss of consciousness if you breathe it in. Crawl to the closest exit, remembering that it may be a window. Stay low to the ground
- if you must go through a door to get to an exit, check if the door is hot. If the door (or doorknob) is warm to the touch, there could be fire raging on the other side
- if you open a door and see fire or smoke, shut the door, and go to a second exit
- use the emergency exit and do not use a lift. Only use a balcony if it is part of an official escape route
- if you live in a purpose-built flat or maisonette, London Fire Brigade has specific advice you should follow.
If the fire is not in your flat
If the fire is not in your flat, make sure you know your fire plan.
Often the best option is to stay indoors and call the London Fire Brigade.
If you live part of a converted house, and there is a fire in your property, get out, stay out, and call 999.
If you are cut off by fire
- try to remain calm and alert people in the home
- close the door and use towels or other material to block any gaps to help stop smoke spreading into the room. If you can wet the fabric down, do so
- cover vents with wet blankets as well, it keeps smoke from coming into the room
- call 999 if you have access to a phone. Give as much detail as you can about the fire, including the property number and floor of the property
- if you get stuck on an upper floor of a building, hang sheets or anything large enough to capture people’s attention out the window so firefighters know where you are
- do not try to make your way through the fire
- try to make your way to a window
- if the room becomes smoky, crawl along the floor as the smoke rises
- open the window. This will allow smoke to escape and provide you with fresh air.
Fire safety education for children
The London Fire Brigade has some useful resources for children.