Every year the fire brigade is called out to over 60,000 fires in the home. And every year around 500 people die in these fires and over 10,000 are injured. If a fire occurs in your home, your chances of survival will depend on how quickly and safely you are able to get out. This advice on how to protect yourself should one occur.
Planning your escape route
If a fire occurs in your home you may have to get out in dark and difficult conditions. Escaping from a fire will be a lot easier if you have already planned your escape route and know where to go. Make sure that your planned escape route remains free of any obstructions and that there are no loose floor coverings that could trip you. Everyone in the house should be made aware of the escape route.
If you have serious mobility difficulties you may wish to consider having your bedroom on the ground floor, if this is practical, and as near as possible to an exit. If you need assistance to make your escape, it is vital that you have some means of summoning help by your bed, such as a buzzer, intercom or telephone.
There are also systems available which will automatically dial out on your telephone line to summon help or send a signal to a manned control room. Details of the many emergency call/alarm systems available can be obtained from the Disabled Living Foundation who produce a booklet on the subject.
What to do if a fire breaks out
We all try to prevent fire starting in our home. But it only takes an unguarded or careless moment for a fire to start. A couple of minutes later and your home could be filled with smoke. Smoke and fumes can kill – particularly the highly poisonous smoke from some furnishings. You will only have a short time to get out. Use it wisely and try not to panic.
- If you can safely do so, close the door of the room where the fire has started and close all other doors behind you. This will help delay the spread of smoke.
- Before opening a closed door, use the back of your hand to touch it. Don’t open it if it feels warm – the fire may be on the other side.
- Get everyone out as quickly as possible. Don’t try to pick up valuables or possessions. Make your way out as safely as possible and try not to panic.
- Never go back into your home until a fire officer has told you it is safe.
It will help if you have planned your escape route rather than waiting until there is a fire. Telephone the fire brigade on 999 from a neighbours house or a telephone box. Clearly state the address of the fire.
What to do if you’re cut off by fire
It’s not easy, but try to remain calm. Save your energy to help you survive
- If you are prevented from getting out because of flames or smoke, close the door nearest to the fire and use towels or sheets to block any gaps. This will help stop smoke spreading into the room.
- Go to the window. If the room becomes smoky, go down to floor level – it’s easier to breathe because the smoke will rise upwards.
- Open the window, try to attract the attention of others who can alert the fire brigade. Wait for the fire brigade, they should arrive in a matter of minutes.
- If you are in immediate danger and your room is not too high from the ground, drop cushions or bedding to the ground below to break your fall from the window.
- Get out feet first and lower yourself to the full length of your arms before dropping.
Many fires in the home start at night. Make sure you have a bedtime fire safety routine to help keep you and your family safe. Here are a few simple things you should do every night:
- Switch off and unplug all electrical appliances not designed to stay on. (There are specially designed plugs available which can be very easily inserted and removed. Details of these devices are available from the Disabled Living Foundation.
- Make sure no cigarettes or pipes are still burning. Never smoke in bed.
- Before emptying ashtrays make sure the contents are cold.
- Switch off portable heaters.
- Close the doors of all rooms.
For further information, help and advice go to your local council or fire brigade who will be happy to advise you on fire prevention and safety.
The following addresses may be useful for people with disabilities:
Disabled Living Foundation
380 – 384 Harrow Road,
London W9 2HU
Tel 0171 2896111 Fax 0171 2662922
National Federation of the Blind of the UK
West Yorkshire WF1 1 ER
Tel 01924 291313
Royal Association for Disability and Rehabilitation (RADAR)
250 City Road,
London EC1V 8AF
Tel 0171 250 3222 Fax 0171 250 0212
Textphone 0171 2504119 (Minicom)
Royal National Institute for the Blind
224 Great Portland Street,
London WiN 6AA
Tel 0171 388 1266 Fax 0171 388 2034
Royal National Institute for Deaf People
9 – 23 Featherstone Street,
London EC1Y 8SL
Tel 0171 296 8000 Fax 0171 296 8199
Textphone 0171 2968001 (Minicom)
April 1, 2011[Last updated: June 30, 2011]