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A guide to home fire safety

When it comes to your home, it's important to take every step to protect you and your loved ones from a fire breaking out.

According to the latest Fire Statistics Monitor, published by the Home Office, fire and rescue services attended to around 528,000 fire-related incidents in England between April 2015 and March 2016 — a 7% increase on 2014/15 figures.

The report revealed fires in the home to be the most common type of fire, accounting for 43% of all serious fires recorded in 2015/16.

Here's a guide on how you can plan for fires and what to do if one starts in your home. We've also included some tips on preventing fires from starting in the first place.

Your fire escape plan

To help you prepare for a fire, make an escape plan for you and your family. Identify the most practical escape route (usually via the front or back door) and think of a second route as back-up. Try to keep these routes clear at all times.

Run through the plan a couple of times with your family, this is particularly important if you have younger children, as it will help familiarise them with the process. Make sure everyone in the house knows where the keys to all doors and windows are kept, and identify a ‘safe spot' outside your house where you can all gather in the event of a fire.

What to do if there's a fire

If a fire breaks out in your home, the main priority's getting everyone out safely. Do not waste time attempting to rescue your possessions.

  • Stay calm, gather your family, and don't attempt to put out the fire yourself.
  • If smoke's filling the room, keep as low as possible where the air will be clearer.
  • If you need to open a door, feel it first. If it's hot, there could be fire on the other side so try another route.
  • Wait until you're safely out of your house before calling 999.

If you're unable to escape from your planned route:

  • Attempt to gather everyone in the same room and phone 999.
  • Line cushions or blankets along the bottom of the door to prevent smoke from pouring in.
  • Open a window and shout for help.
  • If you're on the ground floor you may be able to escape from one of the windows. Always lower yourself down carefully and don't jump.
  • If you're unable to open the window, use a heavy object to smash the glass at the bottom corner, covering any sharp edges with a towel or blanket.
  • If your clothes catch fire, remember the golden rule: stop, drop and roll.
  • If you're escaping from a first-floor room, throw a mattress or some bedding onto the floor to cushion the landing. Again, don't jump, lower yourself from the window ledge instead.

Tips on preventing a fire

Smoke alarms

According to the Government's Fire Safety in the Home report, you're four times more likely to die in a fire if you don't have a smoke alarm that works. An approved smoke alarm should be installed on every level of your home, ideally on the ceiling and in the centre of the room.

Test each alarm at least once a month, pushing the button until the alarm sounds. Batteries should be replaced at least one a year.

In the kitchen

Half of all home fires are a result of cooking accidents, states the fire report. Here are some ways you can prevent a kitchen fire:

  • Don't leave children unattended in the kitchen when using the hob, and make sure matches are stored out of reach.
  • Never cook under the influence of alcohol.
  • Keep tea towels away from the cooker and hob, as they could catch alight.
  • Don't leave the kitchen unattended when cooking on the hob — if you have to, turn the hobs off or down.
  • Be wary of wearing loose clothing while cooking.
  • Keep electrical appliances and their leads away from the sink.
  • Be extra careful when cooking with a deep-fat fryer. Hot oil catches alight easily, if it starts to smoke then it's too hot and must be turned down.

Electricals

Faulty electricals (including appliances, wiring and overloaded sockets) are the cause of around 6,000 fires across the country every year. Ways you can avoid electric fires include:

  • Making sure any appliance you buy features a British or European safety mark.
  • Using one plug per socket, wherever possible.
  • Making sure large, high-powered appliances — such as your dishwasher or fridge — have a single plug.
  • Not overloading extension leads, which have amp limits.
  • Unplugging items when not in use.
  • Making sure your furniture contains a fire-resistant label.
  • Keeping portable heaters clear from furniture or curtains, and propping them against a wall to prevent them from tipping over.

Smoking

Someone dies every six days from a fire started by a cigarette, explains the report. Obviously, the key piece of advice here is to not smoke inside of the home. If you do smoke inside of your home, you must:

  • Never smoke in bed, as you could fall asleep with the cigarette still lit.
  • Use a proper ashtray and make sure all cigarettes are completely stubbed out.
  • Store matches and lighters out of reach of children, and/or make sure they're child-resistant.
  • Be particularly careful of smoking in the house if you've been drinking alcohol, or are taking any prescription drugs that make you feel drowsy.

Living in rented accommodation?

If you rent your home, your landlord has a number of fire safety responsibilities. They must:

  • Make sure gas equipment is safely installed and maintained by a Gas Safe registered engineer.
  • Have an engineer carry out an annual gas safety check on all appliances, and provide you with a copy of the record before you move in, or within 28 days of the inspection.
  • Make sure all electrical systems and appliances are safe.
  • Provide a smoke alarm on each level of your home, along with a carbon monoxide detector in rooms with a useable fireplace or woodburner.
  • Check you can access escape routes at all times.
  • Provide fire alarms and extinguishers if you're living in a large house of multiple occupation (HMO).

Home insurance with Hastings Direct

In the unfortunate event of a house fire, having quality home insurance can help you to recover as quickly as possible.

With a combined buildings and contents policy, the bricks-and-mortar of your home and all your possessions are covered. So in the event of a fire, you're likely to receive financial compensation to replace or repair damage to your home and any belongings. Take a look at our guide to buildings and contents insurance for more information.

If you're after a good deal on your home insurance, get a quote with Hastings Direct today.

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