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Fire prevention and gas safety at home

There's lots you can do at home to help prevent fires and stay safe using gas and electrical appliances. Even some simple measures can bring you peace of mind as well as keeping you safer.

What can I do to prevent fires in the home?

There are lots of simple things you can do to prevent fires and better protect yourself and your home.

Alarms and escape routes

  • You should have at least 1 smoke alarm on each floor of your home. Check it has the British Standard number BS 5446 and the Kitemark.
  • Test your smoke alarms monthly and keep them free from dust. Change the battery at least once a year – or get a long-life alarm that can last 7-10 years.
  • It's advisable to replace hard-wired smoke alarms every 10 years.
  • Get specialist smoke alarms if you have hearing or vision problems.
  • Plan a fire escape route and make sure that corridors, exits and stairs are free from clutter. If you live in a flat, follow the building’s fire evacuation plan.

Some Fire and Rescue services offer a Home Fire Risk Check to help you install smoke alarms, plan escape routes and assess hazards. Contact your local services to find out more.

Around the house

  • If you have an open fire, use a fire guard and have chimneys and flues swept at least once a year.
  • Don't dry clothes over or near a fire or electric heater.
  • When you’re cooking, never leave the pan unattended. If a pan catches fire, don't move it and never throw water on it – instead, turn off the heat if you can, shut the door, leave your home and call 999.
  • Make sure cigarettes, candles, and incense or oil burners are completely extinguished once you're finished with them.

If a fire does start in your home, don’t panic and don't try to tackle it yourself. Remember the fire service advice: get out, stay out and call 999.

You shouldn't go back into a room or building that's on fire under any circumstances.

Free smoke alarms

You could ask your local fire service whether they provide and fit free smoke alarms as part of a home safety scheme – known as Safe and Well in some areas.

Your local Age UK can give advice on contacting your local fire service. They may also have further information and advice on fire safety.

How can I keep gas appliances safe?

Gas appliances be dangerous, so it's important to take precautions to stay safe:

  • If you smell gas in your home, turn off the gas supply, open all doors and windows, and call the 24-hour Gas Emergency Service on 0800 111 999 from a mobile phone outside or from a neighbour's phone. Never use a phone near a possible gas leak.
  • If you have a gas boiler, the pilot light should be alight at all times. If it's gone out and you can’t relight it yourself, call a Gas Safe registered engineer.
  • You should have your gas appliances checked every year by a Gas Safe registered engineer – they're the only people legally allowed to work on gas appliances. 

Find Gas Safe registered engineers using their online directory

How can I prevent carbon monoxide poisoning?

Appliances that burn gas, coal, oil or wood can give off carbon monoxide if they’re not working properly. Low exposure can cause long-term health problems – while high exposure can cause poisoning.

Carbon monoxide is known as a ‘silent killer’ because you can’t see, taste or smell it. Instead, look out for yellow or brown staining, a lazy yellow or orange gas flame rather than a sharp blue flame, or too much moisture in the room.

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include a headache, feeling sick, and a sore throat and dry cough. If you’re worried that you might have carbon monoxide poisoning, call 999 straight away.

To keep yourself safe, install a carbon monoxide in each room with a gas appliance – make sure it bears the Kitemark and European Standard number BS EN 50291. Test them at least monthly.

If you suspect carbon monoxide is present, call the National Gas Emergency Service on 0800 111 999. If you have solid fuel heating, call a solid fuel engineer. Contact the Solid Fuel Association for a list of its registered members.

How can I make sure my home electrics are safe?

Most homes have lots of appliances plugged in. There's plenty you can do to make sure that yours are safe.

  • Don't overload plugs and sockets. If you don’t have enough sockets, use an extension lead rather than a block adapter – but don't plug appliances that use lots of power into these, such as fridges or washing machines.
  • Check electrical equipment for damage, such as fraying or exposed wires. Other warning signs include burning smells, buzzing or crackling sounds, and fuses blowing.
  • Never use appliances like hairdryers or heaters (unless they're fitted with a cord pull) in the bathroom.
  • Never leave heaters unattended and don't use them while you're sleeping.
  • Take care when using garden equipment that needs to be plugged in. A registered electrician can check that your garden equipment is plugged in safely.

Electric blankets

Electric blankets can cause fires, so it's important to use them carefully. Check whether yours can be left on overnight – if it can't, switch it off and unplug it when you go to bed. Check for danger signs such as fraying fabric or scorch marks. Never switch it on if it's wet or could get wet (if you've just had a bath or shower, for instance) and don't use it with a hot water bottle.

You should get your electric blanket tested by an expert at least every 3 years and replace it every 10 years. The shop where you bought the blanket or your local Trading Standards office may be able to test it.

Find your local Trading Standards office on the GOV.UK website

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We offer support through our free advice line on 0800 678 1602. Lines are open 8am-7pm, 365 days a year. We also have specialist advisers at over 120 local Age UKs.

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Last updated: Apr 08 2024

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