Install a smoke alarm
The most important thing you should do to protect your home is to install a smoke alarm. You’re more likely to die from a house fire if you don’t have one and the truth is that you can pick one up in almost any supermarket or high street shop. They're cheap and easy to fit and you should fit one in each hallway or landing on each level of your home. Test that they’re working once a week and make sure you change the batteries as necessary and at least once a year.
Domestic fires related to cooking
A number of domestic fires are related to cooking, so make sure that food and fat doesn’t build up on the oven, hob or grill, and clean out your toaster regularly. Keep electrical leads away from water and the cooker, and don’t hang oven gloves or tea towels on or over it. Only put non-metallic items in the microwave. Never fill a pan more than one third full of fat or oil, or put wet food into it while hot.
Never leave pots or pans on the cooker unattended and don’t leave young children alone in the kitchen. Only turn off a pan that catches fire if it’s safe to do so, cover it with a damp tea towel and leave to cool. If things get out of hand, leave the room, shut the door, get everyone out of the house and call the fire brigade. If you have a gas cooker, check that the kitchen is properly ventilated.
It’s a really good idea to have a safety routine at bedtime. Switch off and unplug all unnecessary electrical appliances including the cooker and heaters. Empty any ashtrays, close all the doors to prevent a fire from spreading and make sure you have easy access to a phone.
Never, ever, smoke in bed or in a chair if there’s a chance you might fall asleep. Don’t leave a lit cigarette, pipe or candle unattended or near young children – and keep matches and lighters in a safe place. Don’t overload electrical sockets or run extension cables across the floor, as they can become worn. Keep flammable materials, such as solvents, away from direct sunlight or other heat sources.
Make sure everyone in the house knows how to get out in case of a fire and if the door is locked with a key, make sure everyone knows where the key is.
So what do you do if there is a fire? Don’t try to be a hero – close the door of the room that it’s in and all others as you quickly and calmly leave the house with everyone else. Before opening a door, touch it with the back of your hand. Don’t open it if it feels warm as fire could be on the other side. If there is a lot of smoke, crawl out with your nose close to the floor. As soon as you are out, call 999. If your escape route is blocked stay where you are and close the door. Use towels and sheets to block any gaps to stop the smoke. Go to a window and call for help.