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Winter safety

Keeping you warm


Keeping warm this winter may mean you'll use portable heaters, electric blankets or wheat bags. Whatever your chosen method, be sure to read our safety tips.

You can also check out our chimney safety information and thatch safety information pages.

Check out the met office advice at:

Using portable heaters

  • Keep heaters at least one metre away from curtains and furniture.
  • Never use them for drying clothes.
  • Always unplug electric heaters when you go out or go to bed.
  • Try to secure heaters against a wall to stop them from falling over.
  • Only use gas or paraffin heaters in well ventilated areas.

Open fires

  • Keep chimneys and flues clean and well maintained, ensure they are swept at least once a year.

  • Make sure you always use a fire guard to protect against sparks and hot embers.

  • Ensure embers are properly put out before you go to bed.

Chimney sweeping frequencies

Sweeping frequencies below are for guidance only. Frequency will depend on a number of factors including: type of fuel, appliance used, duration of use, moisture content of wood fuel, type of chimney.


Smokeless coals: at least once a year.

Wood: up to four times a year.

Bituminous coal: twice a year.

Oil: once a year.

Gas: once a year.

Using electric blankets

  • Never use a hot water bottle in the same bed as an electric blanket, even if the blanket is switched off.

  • Unplug blankets before you get into bed unless they have a thermostat control for safe all-night use.

  • Don't leave electric blankets folded as this may damage the internal wiring. Store them flat or rolled up instead.

  • Get your blanket tested by a qualified electrician every three years.

  • Replace your blanket if it is more than ten years old.

  • Never buy a second-hand electric blanket.

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Wheat bags

Wheat bags are heating pads that usually contain buckwheat or wheatgrass, which can be warmed in a microwave.



  • only use as a heat pack for direct application to the body

  • ensure your microwave turntable is working properly

  • watch for signs of overuse such as burning or charring

  • leave bags to cool in a safe area and on a non-combustible surface.


  • use a wheat bag as a bed warmer

  • overheat the bag

  • reheat the bag until it has completely cooled - this can take up to two hours

  • leave the microwave unattended when heating

  • store the bag until it has completely cooled

  • use the bag if you see evidence of damage.

Electricity failure

Alternative lighting

  • Keep a battery operated torch handy in the event of a power cut.

  • If you have to use candles or matches take care, put them out completely before leaving a room or going to bed, never leave a burning candle unattended.

  • Ensure candles are secured in a proper holder, are not used on top of your electrical equipment and are kept away from material that can catch fire, like curtains.

  • Keep a mobile phone handy so that you can still make an emergency call in the event of a power cut.

You can also download our handy leaflets to remind you of our top tips this winter (PDF) and electric and gas heater safety (PDF).

To request free Home Safety advice call free on: 0800 05 02 999. For any other fire safety advice, contact the Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue helpline on: 01392 872288.

Download our Home Safety booklet (PDF)


All our safety information can be made available in other languages. Please contact 0800 050 2999 to request a copy.

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