Fire safety for carers
If you care for a family member or are a professional care worker, this advice will help you keep the person safe. Learn about risks and what to do about them including:
- how to check someone you support is safe
- how to make a referral for a home safety visit
- fire safety for smokers
- the risks associated with emollient cream
- the risks of hoarding
- specialist smoke alarms.
How to check someone you support is safe: signs to look out for
We know the people you support are more vulnerable to having a fire. There are some behaviours that make someone more at risk of fire. Have a look around the home and see if you spot any of these risks – and learn what to do about them.
If the person displays any of the factors below, their ability to escape might be affected.
- Limited mobility. For example, due to frailty, being plus-sized or having a disability.
- Restricted mobility such as using a walking stick or frame, or having a history of falls.
- Is bed or chair bound.
- Is blind or has impaired vision.
- Is Deaf/deaf or uses hearing aids.
- Lacks the capacity to understand what to do in the event of a fire.
- There are cluttered or blocked escape routes or evidence of hoarding.
- Would be unable to unlock the front door to escape.
What to do
- Read our advice on how to make an escape plan.
- Make sure escape routes are clear – remove any blockages to the front doors and walkways.
- Ensure keys are accessible by the front door.
- Consider installing a thumb lock so keys are not required when exiting the property.
- Consider an interlinked alarm system to ensure smoke alarms are heard in all rooms of the house.
- If you are concerned about their safety: book a free home safety visit for the person – one of our trained Home Safety Technicians will visit them in their home and talk through fire safety advice.
Smoke alarms save lives. Factors that can make someone less able to respond to an alarm include:
- mental health issues (including memory loss, anxiety or depression)
- disabilities which affect understanding or difficulties with decision-making
- use of medication that leads to drowsiness
- alcohol dependency or misuse of drugs
- sensory impairments (visual or hearing impairments).
If you are concerned about their safety: book a free home safety visit for the person. One of our trained Home Safety Technicians will visit them in their home and talk through fire safety advice. You can also read our advice on smoke alarms for vulnerable people.
We can provide specialist smoke alarms that flash and vibrate when the smoke alarm is activated. You could consider fitting a monitored alarm system that notifies a call centre when an alarm is activated.
Look for signs of unsafe use of smoking or vaping materials such as smoking in bed, unsafe disposal of cigarettes, burn or scorch marks on clothing, curtains, flooring or furniture.
What to do
- Read our safety advice for smokers.
- Talk to the person about the risks.
- Ensure ashtrays are regularly emptied and that any non-standard ashtrays are not made from flammable materials.
- Discourage smoking in, or on any bed. If a person wants to smoke the safest place is outside, or when a capable person is with them to offer immediate help.
- Consider fire retardant covers, bedding or clothing for at-risk smokers, particularly if they are confined by immobility. We will supply these during a home safety visit.
If the person has no alarms fitted, the alarms have not been tested recently or the alarm systems are very old or not maintained – there could be a risk. Carbon monoxide poisoning can occur when any fuel-burning appliance has not been properly installed, maintained or is poorly ventilated.
- Smoke alarms should be fitted on at least every floor of the home.
- Heat alarms can be used in kitchens.
- Carbon monoxide alarms should be fitted in all rooms containing:
- solid fuel appliances such as open fires or wood burners
- any gas appliances such as central heating systems, boilers, gas fires
- paraffin heaters.
What to do
- Test the alarms are working - read our advice on smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms.
- Speak to us about booking a home safety visit.
- Read about special smoke alarms for vulnerable people.
- You could consider fitting a monitored alarm system that notifies a call centre when an alarm is activated.
- Electric or gas heaters placed too close to materials that could catch fire, including furniture or clothing is a high risk.
- Heaters placed on uneven surfaces or that are easy to knock over also pose a high risk.
- Use of old halogen and bar-style heaters.
- Using non-standard items as a source of heating such as an oven, naked flames, candles etc.
What to do
- Speak to the person about the fire risks.
- Move clothing or flammable fabrics away from the heater.
- Read our advice on gas and electric heaters.
Around 50 fatal fires a year are caused by emollients*. It’s important to know the dangers and how to reduce the risk.
- Aqua-based creams are as flammable as paraffin-based creams
- In combination with smoking, naked flames or heat sources emollients are a high risk
- Even washing at a high temperature does not remove all of the emollient from fabrics and so freshly washed clothing and bedding can still present a high risk.
What to do
- Read our emollients advice.
*data from NFCC
Look out for scorch marks on carpets, curtains or walls close to plug sockets. This can indicate future fire risk.
What to do
- Book a home safety visit, so we can come and check that the home is safe.
- Identify the source of the problem.
- If possible and safe to do so, remove the source of the problem. For example, if it's an unsafe electrical item, then make sure it can't be used again until it's been checked.
Because of the number of possessions a hoarder has:
- exit routes can become blocked, making safe evacuation more difficult
- fires will also spread much faster. Hoarded materials can easily catch alight if they come into contact with heat sources such as overloaded extension leads, the kitchen hob or naked flames like candles or cigarettes.
What to do
- Encourage the person to keep escape routes clear and work with them to develop an escape plan.
- Encourage them not to light candles or tea lights of any kind.
- Ensure they have appropriate heating so they are not using portable heaters, candles or gas hobs to heat the home.
- If using portable heaters – make sure items aren’t placed on top of, or too close to them.
- Suggest or make sure they smoke outside if they are a smoker, avoid smoking in bed, or where they could fall asleep and that they use proper ashtrays.
- Book a home safety visit – so they can have a confidential and friendly conversation about fire safety in their home.
- Read our hoarding advice.
Issues with electrical items are a common cause of fires.
- Look for extension leads that have been linked (called daisy-chaining).
- Only one extension lead should be used per socket and be careful not to overload this with many high wattage items.
- Look out for scorching around plug sockets.
- Beware of products that can be bought cheaply online such as chargers.
What to do
- Make sure the person never puts appliances such as tumble dryers or dishwashers on when they go out of the house or are asleep.
- Read our electrical safety advice.
- If concerned about electrics, get an electrician to double check wiring and sockets.
- Use long bar extension leads rather than cube extensions.
- Consider installing additional sockets where sockets are regularly overloaded.
- Be aware of any product recall advice issued. You can use the Register My Appliance (opens in a new window) service to register appliances and get a notification if a product gets recalled.
Our free home safety visit service
If a person you care for shows any of these risks of fire, don’t delay, here’s what to do:
- explain the fire risk to the person and take any immediate steps to reduce the risk
- talk to them about our home safety visit service
- obtain their consent for you to book a home safety visit
- call 0800 05 02 999
- book using our online referral form
- or send us an email.
When making the referral please provide your name and your 3-digit partnership number (if you have one), the person’s name, address, postcode and contact number as well as your contact details so someone can confirm the appointment.