House fires destroy homes and devastate lives. They’re still alarmingly common; the fire service are called to around 30,000 blazes in UK homes each year, according to government figures.
Common causes include cooking accidents, smoking, candles and overloading sockets. Faulty equipment can often be to blame, as shown by the Whirlpool tumble dryer recall; the manufacturer is recalling some tumble dryers sold under its Hotpoint, Indesit, Creda, Swan and Proline brands after a fault was identified that could cause fires.
If you think you might have a tumble dryer from one of those brands, you can check whether it needs to be recalled by calling 0800 151 0905 or clicking here.
How else can you ensure your home is as fire safe as possible?
Get smoke alarms - and be sure they work
The easiest way to protect your home and family is by making sure you have working smoke alarms. Government statistics say people are four times more likely to die in a fire when a working smoke alarm isn’t present. But one in 10 households still don’t have any.
Smoke alarms should be fitted throughout your house, with at least one on every level. Mount your alarms in the centre of the ceiling, rather than on the wall.
Nearly a quarter (23%) of households have never tested their alarm; if that’s you and you find it hard to remember to check yours, then try setting yourself a reminder on your phone, or make a point of checking your alarms at a set time every week. All you need to do is press the test button.
Other fire safety equipment that’s worth investing in includes fire blankets, extinguishers and heat alarms.
Take simple precautions
Cooking accidents account for around half of home fires, so kitchen fire safety is a good place to start. Some simple tips include:
- Avoid leaving food cooking on the hob or grill unattended. If you need to leave the kitchen, take pans off the heat or turn them down.
- Never leave children alone in the kitchen when cooking on the hob. Turn pan handles around so they’re out of reach.
- Keep the oven, hob and grill clean and in good working order. Dirty grill pans in particular are a common source of fires.
- Take extra care if cooking with oil. If the pan catches fire, turn off the heat if it’s safe to do so. Never throw water over it.
Unattended candles and lit cigarettes are also among common fire hazards. So:
- Make sure candles are secured properly, so they won’t fall over, and kept well away from curtains or other flammable materials.
- Put candles out when you leave the room and at night.
- Keep children and pets away from lit candles at all times. The same goes for matches and lighters, which should always be kept out of children’s reach.
- Stub cigarettes out properly and dispose of them carefully.
Electricals are another risk area. For starters:
- Don’t overload plugs.
- Keep electrical appliances clean and in good working order.
Check your tumble dryer
Despite the recall, hundreds of thousands of faulty tumble dryers under the Hotpoint, Indesit, Creda, Swan and Proline brands remain in people’s homes.
If you have a tumble dryer from one of these brands, that was made between 2004 and 2015, then unplug it and don’t use it while you check whether it needs to be recalled (by calling 0800 151 0905 or clicking here.)
If your tumble dryer is affected, you’ll be entitled to a new replacement machine, which will be delivered and installed, at no cost to you. Your old machine will also be taken away, free of charge.
Alternatively, you can pay for an upgrade, have your machine fixed by an engineer or accept a refund.
Plan for the worst
It’s important to plan how you would escape if your house was on fire. Everyone in the family should know about this route - as well as a back-up in case it gets blocked - and have practised it.
Then, if there’s ever actually a fire, everyone will know what to do and will have a better chance of getting out quickly and safely.
What to do if there is a fire
Forget rescuing valuables and get everyone out of your home as soon as possible, staying together if possible and following your planned escape route.
Avoid any smoke as it can be deadly. If there is smoke, stay low to the ground where the air is clearer.
Before you open any doors, touch them to check if they’re warm, which is a sign that there’s fire on the other side.
Call 999 as soon as you’re clear of the building.
These tips are just a start. For more detailed guidance on how to keep your home and family safe from the risk of fire, see this guide from the London Fire Brigade.