The Home Fire Safety Guide

The fire and rescue services attend thousands of incidents at homes across the UK each year. Read on to find out what you can do to lower the risk of a fire in your home.

Kitchen Fire Safety
Bedroom Fire Safety
Living Room Fire Safety
Check your smoke alarms
What should I do if there is a house fire?

Kitchen Fire Safety

Many fire safety issues stem from the kitchen – with cooking appliances and forgotten food that catches alight causing most fires in homes.

Fire safety when cooking

When you're cooking in the kitchen, you need to be aware – after all, you're operating at high temperatures and often handling several pans and utensils at once. The hazards are obvious. Keep an eye on appliances and definitely don't leave pans unattended.

Oven gloves, tea towels and paper towels are often left near the hob where a naked flame could easily set them alight. Be mindful and keep your kitchen clear of clutter to prevent house fires. A tea towel left draped near a hob is a real red flag for a potential house fire.

You should also have a fire alarm fitted in your kitchen so that if you do miss something, the fire alarm will alert you to the trouble and you can act quickly.

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Bedroom Fire Safety

We typically use a range of everyday items in the bedroom. These may seem harmless but they carry a risk of starting a problem – deploying some simple measures can help in how to prevent electrical house fires.

Hair Straighteners

If not handled correctly, the humble hair straightener can be the cause of a house fire. Hair straighteners get very hot after use and if they're thrown aside carelessly onto clothing, pillows or duvets they can quickly smoulder.

Always unplug the device after use and store somewhere safer on a hard surface – like a window sill (providing it’s not plastic or otherwise flammable), where it can cool down. The same applies with hair dryers, which can easily overheat.

Check electrical cords

You need to frequently check cords and plugs for wear and tear. If they don’t look safe and there are wires showing, replace them. If you're unsure, seek professional advice – get an electrician in to carry out some tests for your peace of mind. You may want to arrange an EICR.

What is an EICR?

An EICR is an Electrical Installation Condition Report, and will inform you of your home fire safety. This includes whether your electrical circuits are overloaded, if there are any shock or fire risks, any defective electrical work or lack of earthing.

They will also inspect everything from your bedside light to the toaster, check for faults, and that the circuits are working well.

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Living Room Fire Safety

The living room is usually the room in our house where we relax in the evening – but there is still a fire risk if we're not careful.

Candles as a Fire Hazard

Candles give off a lovely, warming glow and a pleasant aroma but are also a significant fire hazard.

If you like to light candles, don't ignore them. Lighting a candle in the evening and forgetting to snuff it out when going to bed poses a real danger of a house fire.

Also, be mindful of where you position your candles. They need to be well away from any fabrics or materials that are flammable – don't place and light them within reach of curtains, for example.

Keep them away from areas of busy traffic, too. If you have children don't place them within their reach. If you have pets, make sure any candles are well away from the risk of being knocked over by a wagging tail or curious paw.

Open Fires and Log Burners

An open fire, stove or log burner can be a welcoming addition to a living room, providing heat and a feeling of ambience. Be warned, though – if not handled properly, a log fire can become a house fire very easily indeed.

The London Fire Brigade recommends these care and maintenance tips:

  • Keep chimneys and flues clean and well maintained
  • Have your chimney swept regularly by a specialist at least once a year
  • Use a fireguard to protect against hot embers and flying sparks
  • Ensure fires are under control or ideally put out completely before going to bed
  • Store logs away from burners because radiated heat can still cause them to burn

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Check your smoke alarms

It's imperative that your home is fitted with smoke alarms and that they are all working and correctly positioned. A smoke alarm will be the only thing that can alert you to a fire unless you’re close by.

To promote the importance of smoke alarms in preventing house fires, the government started a new campaign called Press to Test. Monthly is Best.

The message is a simple one – to try and make people test the batteries in their smoke alarms on a monthly basis.

Ideally, you need both ionization and photoelectric smoke alarms or a dual alarm to detect heat and smoke. Smoke alarms should be installed on every level of your home and in the kitchen, so have one on each floor.

As tempting as it is to disable an alarm to stop it going off while cooking, this can be a deadly mistake. Open a window instead or install an extraction fan so that it doesn’t go off every time you cook. Don't see smoke alarms as a noisy irritation – they are a key component in fire safety in the house.

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What should I do if there is a house fire?

In the event of a fire you should already have planned exits so you can get out of the building - fast. Don't worry about possessions inside your home – don't be tempted to grab keys or your mobile phone – just get yourself and everyone else out of the property as quickly as possible. Staying safe is the overwhelming priority.

It's not just fire that is a killer – smoke is toxic. If it’s already thick you will need to get urgently out of your home to avoid suffocating on the poisonous gases. Other important things to consider in the case of a fire are:

  • Check door handles before opening them. If it feels warm choose a different exit.
  • Call 999 and ask for the fire service as soon as it’s safe to do so.
  • If pets or other people are trapped in the building tell the fire fighters straight away.
  • If your clothes are on fire, stomp and roll on the floor to put them out. If someone else is on fire wrap them in a wet towel.

Being the victim of a house fire can be frightening and it can have a devastating long term effect on you. The most important thing is the safety of you and every member of the household.

Everything else can be replaced and that's where RAC Home Insurance comes in – contact us for a quote and make sure you're properly covered if you ever unfortunate enough to need to make a house fire claim.

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