It’s important to know how to reduce the chances of fire happening in your home and, if it does, how to protect yourself.
Every hour of every day there’s a house fire in Scotland
Everybody’s home is at risk of fire. It’s important to know how to reduce the chances of fire happening in your home and, if it does, how to protect yourself.
Cooking accidents, overloaded sockets, faulty appliances, smoking and drinking are just some of the reasons why there are so many house fires in Scotland. One lapse, such as leaving a pan unattended or failing to put out a cigarette properly, could change your life forever.
Many fire deaths occur where there are either no working smoke alarms or there are not enough alarms.
Imagine if this happened to your home
Most house fires start in the living room and kitchen. With lots of flammable materials around (e.g. curtains, cushions) extra care is needed. Gas or electric fires and electrical equipment are all potential fire hazards. Kitchens are full of ignition sources and electrical appliances that generate lots of heat. Electric blankets, portable heaters and smoking in bed all increase the risk of fire in the bedroom.
Is your home safe?
Taking simple steps like testing your smoke, heat and carbon monoxide alarms weekly, closing your doors at night and making an emergency escape plan could save your life if there is a fire.
Remember, none of the people hurt last year thought it would happen to them. A few simple questions can help you to spot risks in your home and to think about how to deal with them.
Protecting yourself and your home
Do you have smoke, heat and carbon monoxide alarms?
Smoke and heat alarms could help save your home, and your life.
- Test your alarms
- If an alarm doesn’t sound, buy a new alarm.
- Gently vacuum the inside and outside casing. If you’re decorating or creating a lot of dust, use an elastic band to secure a plastic bag over the smoke alarm casing – don’t forget to take it off when you’re done.
Fire and Smoke Alarms in Scottish Homes
Because of different standards for fire alarms in different types of home, legislation was introduced in January 2019 which aimed to ensure that everyone in Scotland has the same level of protection whether they own or rent their home.
How many alarms are required to meet the standard?
The standard requires:
- One smoke alarm installed in the room most frequently used for general daytime living purposes
- One heat alarm installed in every kitchen
- One smoke alarm in every circulation space on each storey, such as hallways and landings
All alarms should be ceiling mounted and interlinked. Where there is a carbon-fuelled appliance (such as boilers, fires (including open fires) and heaters) or a flue, a carbon monoxide detector is also required which does not need to be linked to the fire alarms.
I already have smoke alarms fitted in my home but they are not interlinked – do I need to change these to interlinked ones?
Yes – the requirement is to have all smoke and heat alarms interlinked. You may not hear the alarm closest to the fire but, by having an interlinked system, you will be alerted immediately.
If your home is on one level – a flat or bungalow – you need to fit at least two smoke alarms. If your home has more than one level, you’ll need one on each floor, plus the living room. You may also wish to consider fitting additional smoke alarms in bedrooms. This can be particularly important when there are extra fire risks such as televisions, computers or other electrical appliances, or in the bedrooms of persons who are bedridden or otherwise vulnerable from fire due to ill health or disability. Smoke alarms save lives. However, on occasion the very young and the elderly may not react to or hear a smoke alarm sounding, so don’t rely on smoke alarms alone. For people who are deaf or hard of hearing a deaf alerted smoke alarm system may be required. Having an emergency escape plan, and reducing risks throughout your home, will also help ensure everyone in your home remains safe from fire.
Have you made an emergency escape plan?
Think about how you would get out of the house if you were to have a fire. The first choice is always through the main door, closing it once everyone’s out. But if it’s not safe to leave by the main door, how else could you escape? It doesn’t take long to plan and it could save lives. Practicing helps everyone stay calm if there is a fire. It also helps you get to safety quicker.
- Is there another door you could use or a fire escape?
- Could you climb out of a ground floor window?
- Could you climb out of a first floor window onto a garage roof or extension and get down safely?
Reducing your risk
Does anyone smoke in your home?
Smokers should always take care, especially if they’re tired or have been drinking alcohol. Make sure cigarettes are properly stubbed out in an ashtray. Always empty the ashtray, pour water over the cigarette ends and put them in the bin outside. It is always safer to smoke outside. There’s no risk of a dropped cigarette or burning cigarette end starting a fire in your home and you also remove the health risk of secondary smoke for anyone else in your home. If you can’t easily go outside, then standing up at an open window or outside door is the next best option.
Do you ever light candles or tealights?
Make sure lit candles are kept in candle holders and can’t be knocked over. Keep them well away from anything that could catch fire, like curtains, cards, cushions, TVs or even shelves. Never leave a lit candle alone – even for a few seconds – and if you’re going out, or going to sleep, make sure candles are properly put out first.
Do you have gas heating or gas appliances?
Gas boilers and appliances should be serviced once a year by a Gas Safe registered engineer. Visit www.GasSafeRegister.co.uk or call 0800 408 5500.
You should also fit a Carbon Monoxide detector in your home.
Do you check the fuses on your electrical appliances?
The fuse in a plug is a safety device that will ‘blow’ if there’s a fault. This cuts off the electricity, stopping the appliance from overheating and causing a fire. Always make sure all your appliances are fitted with the right fuse. The below are guidelines only. Always check the manufacturer’s instructions.
3 AMP FUSE
- lamps/bed lights
- electric blankets
- hi-fi/dvd players
- docking stations
- games consoles
13 AMP FUSE
- washing machines/dryers
- hair straighteners
Do you unplug and switch off appliances when you’re not using them?
It’s important to switch off and unplug appliances such as TVs, washing machines, dishwashers, computers and chargers when you’re not using them because any electrical appliance that’s left plugged into the mains could cause a fire. You can reduce your chances of being affected by fires involving white goods such as washing machines, tumble dryers and dishwashers by avoiding using them when you are out or asleep.
Take extra care to switch off before you go to sleep. Some household domestic appliances, like fridges and freezers are designed to be left on, but even these can cause fires if they’re defective or not used properly. Always make sure proper ventilation is in place to help stop overheating.
Register your appliances
Fridge/freezers are designed to be left on 24 hours a day. You can help to ensure your fridge/freezer is safe by registering it, and all your white goods, at www.registermyappliance.org.uk. Doing this will mean you’ll know if a safety issue is identified. You can also check for product recalls at www.electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk/product-recalls/
Be a bright spark, get the right spark
Poorly installed electrical work can put you at risk. Thinking of booking an electrician to work in your home? Visit: www.findanelectricianscotland.com
Do you have any electrical cables running under carpets or rugs?
If you’re walking over cables they’re at risk of damage, even if they’re covered by carpet.
Do you use electrical adaptors or strip plugs?
Adaptors let you plug more than one device into an electrical socket, but if they’re overloaded they can cause a fire. Never use more than one adaptor in each socket, and never overload an adaptor, or join adaptors together. Choose a strip adaptor, rather than a block adaptor and take care that appliances you plug into it do not use more than 13 amps/3 kilowatts of electricity in total. Check appliance handbooks for details.
Tip: Always make sure your adaptor is fitted with a fuse and has an Intertek BEAB kite mark and preferably choose one provided with electrical surge overload protection.
Do you ever join and/or repair electrical cables with tape?
Never repair or re-join cables with insulating tape. Always replace the whole cable, or use an extension lead.
Do you have any lamps fitted with high powered light bulbs?
All lamp shades advise the maximum wattage of light bulb that can be safely fitted.
Always check this before fitting as higher watt bulbs can cause the shade to overheat and catch fire.
Tip: Never cover lightbulbs or lampshades as they can quickly overheat and catch fire.
Do you cook with oil?
Cooking is a major cause of fire in our homes. If you are tired avoid cooking. If you’ve been drinking alcohol or taking drugs, don’t cook.
Modern electric deep fat fryers are much safer than traditional chip pans as they have a safety switch that cuts them off, helping stop them overheating and catching fire. Try not to use a traditional chip pan if you can as there’s always a high risk of fire.
If you do choose to use one:
- Turn the handle to the side – but not over any of the other cooker rings
- Fry in small amounts – overfilling could cause spills
- Make sure food going in it is dry, not dripping wet or covered in ice
- Only ever fill one third full
- Fry food when you’ve been drinking alcohol or taking drugs or if you are feeling tired
- Leave the pan alone. It only takes a second for a fire to start
If your pan catches fire, and only if it’s safe to do so, try to turn off the heat. Get out of the kitchen. Close the door. Phone the Fire and Rescue Service. Never try to move the pan and never throw water on burning fat or oil.
Do you grill fatty foods?
Remember to clean the grill pan every time you use it, as fat deposits build up and can easily catch fire.
Are there any electrical appliances or cables near your cooker?
Heat from a cooker can easily damage electrical appliances or cables and cause a fire.
Remember to keep appliances and cables a safe distance from your cooker.
Do you ever dry towels on or near your cooker?
Never dry towels near or on top of the cooker as even damp towels can easily catch fire.
Your Living Room
Do you have an open fire?
Never leave a lit fire unattended without a fireguard. Never dry clothes in front of the fire or keep furniture closer than a metre (3 feet) from the fire.
Tip: Always ensure your chimney is swept every year.
Do you have a mirror over your fireplace?
Mirrors above fireplaces encourage people to stand too close and risk setting clothes on fire.
Do you use a portable heater?
Ensure that your heater is placed at least a metre (3 feet) away from anything that could catch fire, like a chair or clothing. Make sure you don’t sit too close to the heater. If you fall asleep you could easily get burnt.
Do you use an electric blanket?
Electric blankets must be checked regularly and used with care. Check the blanket, plug and flex for damage and make sure it’s either Intertek BEAB approved or marked BSEN60335-2-17:2002+A1,A2. If you’re in any doubt, don’t use the blanket. When in use, tie under blankets securely to the bed and when they’re not in use, store safely – roll it, don’t fold it.
Tip: Blankets with an overheat protection safety system are best.
Do you leave your electric blanket switched on when you’re in bed?
Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Never leave an electric blanket switched on when you’re in bed unless it’s marked ‘suitable for all night use’.
Do you still have a guarantee for your blanket?
Blankets don’t last forever. In fact, after the guarantee runs out (usually 3 years) it should be tested and serviced regularly by the manufacturer. Never use a damaged or defective electric blanket.
Tip: It might just be cheaper and safer to buy a new one.
Do you smoke in bed?
Smoking in bed is definitely not recommended. But if you do, there should be a smoke alarm inside the bedroom. Remember to test all your smoke alarms every week.
Helping keep your child safe
Don’t leave matches and candles where children can find them
- Use a child proof cigarette lighter with safety locks, which go out when you let go of them
- Make sure fires and heaters have fixed guards
- Don’t place toys nearer than a metre (3 feet) to anything hot. Even if the toys don’t catch fire, your child may be burned
Fire Safety Checklists
Your night-time routine
- Switch off and unplug all electrical appliances not designed to be left on overnight.
- Stub out all cigarettes and always empty ashtrays. Pour water over cigarette ends before putting them in the bin outside.
- Put fireguards around open fires. Don’t build up the fire before you go to bed.
- Switch off portable heaters.
- Close all doors – it can keep your escape route free from smoke and may stop a fire spreading.
- Make sure the main door keys are to hand.
- If possible, make sure that you have access to a phone. A mobile phone on your bedside cabinet or example. (But don’t charge the phone while you are sleeping.)
If there’s a fire in your home, close the door where the fire is. This will help protect your escape route and stop the fire spreading so quickly.
- Think about how you would get out of the house if you were to have a fire, and practice so you’re prepared.
- Keep low. The air is cleaner and cooler near the floor.
- Never open a door if it’s warm to the touch.
- Never use a lift. Always take the stairs.
- If your clothing catches fire; stop, drop and roll. If it’s someone else use a blanket, rug or thick coat.
- Don’t stop for valuables.
- Shout ‘Fire’ to warn your family or passers-by.
- Never try to go back inside until a firefighter tells you it’s safe.
- Never jump out of a window from an upper floor. Stand by a window so firefighters can see you. But if you’re on the first floor you may be able to lower yourself down on to cushions or pillows.
- Remember: get out, stay out and dial 999.
If you can’t get out
Try to get everyone into one room.
- Once everyone’s together, pack clothes, cushions, pillows or towels around the door to keep smoke out.
- Open a window and shout ‘Fire’ until someone phones the Fire and Rescue Service.
- Keep leaning out of the open window for fresh air until the firefighters arrive.
Website and free helpline providing information and advice for older persons in Scotland.
A free, UK helpline providing information, friendship and advice to older people, 24 hours a day, every day of the year.
If you know anything about a crime, including fires that have been started deliberately in your area you can call Scotland Crimestoppers. All calls are completely anonymous.
Citizens Advice Direct is a provider of advice and information to the citizens of Scotland on a wide range of issues such as debt, employment, welfare and consumer advice.
Shelter Scotland helps over half a million people a year struggling with bad housing or homelessness and campaigns to prevent it in the first place.
Provides a single source of quality assured health information for the public in Scotland.
Call free on 111 if you are ill and it can’t wait until your GP surgery reopens.
Scotland’s free NHS stop smoking helpline, available Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm.
Dedicated to supporting all victims of domestic abuse by providing a compassionate, non-judgemental 24-hour telephone service.
A free, confidential phone and web-based service for people in Scotland experiencing low mood, depression or anxiety.
A community led initiative to bring local people together to address crime and other community safety issues
A digital self-management service for the over 50s designed to help you get more out of life and stay happier, healthier and safer.
The Alliance is the national third sector intermediary for a range of health and social care organisations.
The Alliance has over 1,100 members including large, national support providers as well as small, local volunteer-led groups and people who are disabled, living with long term conditions or providing unpaid care.
National Gas Emergency Number
If you smell gas or have any concerns about gas safety, call the National Gas Emergency Number immediately.
Help and advice regarding electrical safety