Home fire safety
Heating and gas
To keep warm and safe follow our guides on how to use heating sources in the home.
Heating your home, especially in the colder months, can have unforeseen risks when done unsafely. Every year people are injured and die in their homes because of fires caused by heating appliances. To keep warm and safe, follow our useful guides to heating sources in the home.
Carbon Monoxide alarm
You should have a carbon monoxide detector fitted in any room where there is a carbon-fuelled appliance. These include rooms that have boilers, open fires, heaters, stoves and a flue. This is now a legal requirement in homes in Scotland.
Whenever there are power cuts, we see a rise in house fires started by careless use of candles, oil lamps and tea-lights. If a fire was to start, the lack of light in a smoke filled home makes escape far more difficult.
- Keep torches and batteries where you can find them easily in an emergency
- Wind-up torches are also good to have as they’re safe, cheap and never run out of power.
- Create an escape plan, so even in a dark smoke-filled room everyone knows how to get out.
Please take extra care during power cuts and follow our candle safety advice.
Fires and stoves that heat water
In cold weather, the pipes that feed water in and out of stoves and ‘back boilers’ in open fires can freeze. This is more likely if you’ve been away for a few days and your fire or stove hasn’t been used.
If you light the stove or fire while the pipes are frozen, pressure will build up inside the boiler part and could cause an explosion. This would cause the room to be showered with burning fuel and flying shards of metal.
Testing to see if it has frozen is simple. If it has been cold, run the hot tap before lighting up. If no water runs out, do not light your stove or fire. Instead call a heating engineer and have your pipes defrosted.
Gas and paraffin portable heaters
Accidents from this heating source happen due to gas leaks during appliance assembly or cylinder/cartridge changes. Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) is butane or propane stored as a liquid under pressure. A small leak can produce a large volume of highly flammable gas.
The gas is heavier than air, so that it collects near the floor or ground. It can be ignited at a considerable distance from the source of the leak. If escaping gas is ignited in a room or other space, there may be a fire and an explosion.
Portable equipment safety advice
Any type of portable heater can start a fire if it is misused. Always read and understand the manufacturer's instructions before using one.
- turn off portable heaters before going to bed
- keep the heater clean and well maintained
- ventilate the room in which the heater is being used
- make sure that a permanent safety guard is fitted
- if a heater is to be used in one place for a long time, fix it securely to a floor or wall
Whatever type of heater you use, never:
- move a heater while it is alight or switched on
- stand or sit too close, your clothing may ignite
- place a heater too close to furniture, bedding or curtains
- air or dry clothes over a heater
- place heaters where they are likely to be knocked over
- leave a portable heater on if young children or animals are left unattended
- use flammable adhesives, cleaning fluids or aerosol sprays near a heater
Portable Gas Heaters
There are now many forms of powerful domestic heaters available which are fuelled by cylinders of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG). For portable gas heaters we recommend:
- buying a heater that carries the BSI kitemark
- ensuring that the appliance is serviced regularly
- changing the cylinder in open air, or if this is not possible, open windows and doors to increase ventilation
- never change a cylinder on a stairway or other escape route
- before changing the cylinder indoors, extinguishing all sources of ignition, including cigarettes and pilot lights, and turn off other heaters and electrical appliances
- checking that the valve on the empty cylinder is closed before disconnecting the heater
- never turn on the valve of the new cylinder until the heater is securely connected
- searching for any suspected gas leak by brushing soapy water onto the flexible hose and fittings
- if you find a leak, take the heater and cylinder into open air and do not use them until the faulty part has been replaced
- storing spare cylinders outside where possible
- never storing a cylinder in a basements, near drains, under the stairs or in a cupboard containing electric meters or equipment
- storing spare cylinder upright
- Buy a heater that carries the BSI kitemark. Never buy a second-hand paraffin heater as they can be dangerous
- Use only premium grade paraffin and never use other fuels
- Extinguish the heater and allow it to cool before refilling it. Wherever possible, refill the tank outside the building
- Fill the fuel container to just below the maximum level. This allows for the paraffin to expand when it warms up
- Never allow paraffin to overflow or drip onto the floor. Clean up any spillage immediately
- Ensure the heater is standing level, preferably on a non-combustible base. Place it away from draughts before lighting it
- Keep spare fuel outside the home. No more than 23 litres (5 gallon), and preferably only 9 litres (2 gallon) should be kept. Spare fuel should be in purpose made containers and stored away from sources of heat