A Fire Survival Guide

Every year the fire brigade is called out to around 30,000 significant fires in the home. And every year around 300 people die in house fires and over 7,000 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.

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 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 from 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 neighbour’s house or mobile. Clearly state the address of the fire.

What to do if you are cut off by fire

It is 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 your room
  • Go to the window. If the room becomes smoky, go down to floor level – it is easier to breathe closer to the floor because 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 letting yourself drop

Bedtime Routine

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


April 1, 2011[Last updated: November 8, 2019]

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