Fire safety for carers

If you care for a family member or are a social worker or support worker, find specialist advice here. 

  • How to check someone you care for is safe. 
  • How to make a referral for a home safety visit.
  • Caring for smokers. 
  • Emollient cream advice. 
  • Specialist health equipment.
  • Hoarding disorder. 
  • Specialist smoke alarms.
An elderly woman walking outside with her carer.

How to check someone you care for is safe: signs to look out for

As carers, we know the people you care for are more vulnerable to having a fire. There are some behaviours that make someone more at risk of fire. Have a look around the home and see if you see any of these risks – and what to do about them.

1. Reduced ability to escape

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Does the person have a reduced ability to escape? If they display any of the factors below, their ability to escape might be affected.

  • Restricted mobility, frailty or a history of falls.
  • Is bed or chair bound.
  • Is blind or has impaired vision.
  • Lacks the capacity to understand what to do in the event of a fire.
  • Is a hoarder, or there are cluttered or blocked escape routes.
  • Would be unable to unlock the front door to escape.

What to do

  • Read our advice on how to make an escape plan.
  • Make sure escape routes are clear – remove any blockages to the front doors and walkways.
  • Ensure keys are accessible by the front door.
  • Consider an interlinked alarm system to ensure smoke alarms are heard in all rooms of the house.
  • If you are concerned about their safety: book a free home safety visit for the person – one of our trained Home Safety Technicians will visit them in their home and talk through fire safety advice.

2. Less able to react to an alarm or fire

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Smoke alarms save lives. Some factors that can make someone less able to respond to an alarm: 

  • mental health issues (including dementia, anxiety or depression)
  • cognitive or decision-making difficulties 
  • use of medication that leads to drowsiness 
  • alcohol dependency or misuse of drugs 
  • sensory impairments (visual or hearing impairments). 

If you are concerned about their safety: book a free home safety visit for the person – one of our trained Home Safety Technicians will visit them in their home and talk through fire safety advice. You can also read our advice on smoke alarms for vulnerable people.

3. Smoking

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Signs of unsafe use of smoking or vaping materials (e.g. smoking in bed, unsafe disposal of cigarettes, burn or scorch marks on clothing, curtains, flooring or furniture).

What to do

  • Read our advice for smokers.
  • Talk to the person about the risks.
  • Discourage smoking in, or on any bed. If a person wants to smoke the safest place is outside, or when a capable person is with them to offer immediate assistance. 
  • Consider fire retardant covers, bedding or clothing for at-risk smokers, particularly if they are confined by immobility. We will supply these during a home safety visit.

4. Lack of alarm detection systems: smoke, heat or carbon monoxide

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Smoke alarms should be fitted on at least every floor of the home, except the kitchen and bathroom (where heat alarms are more appropriate). Carbon monoxide alarms should be fitted in all rooms containing solid fuel gas, or paraffin heaters.

If the person has no alarms fitted, or there is evidence that these alarm systems are very old or not maintained – there could be a risk.

What to do

5. Unsafe use of heaters

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Electric or gas heaters placed too close to materials that could catch fire, including furniture or clothing, is a high risk.

What to do

  • Speak to the person about the fire risks.
  • Remove clothing or flammable fabrics away from the heater.
  • Read our advice on gas and electric heaters.

6. Use of emollient creams (lotions, creams or gels used to prevent dry skin)

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Around 50 fatal fires a year are caused by emollients*. It’s important to know the dangers and how to reduce the risk.

What to do

*data from NFCC

7. Previous signs of fire or near misses

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Look out for scorch marks on carpets, curtains or walls close to plug sockets. This can indicate future fire risk.

What to do

  • Identify the source of the problem.
  • If possible and safe to do so, remove the source of the problem. For example, if it's an unsafe electrical item, then make sure it can't be used again until it's been checked.
  • Book a home safety visit, so we can come and check that the home is safe.

8. Hoarding

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Because of the number of possessions a hoarder has:

  • exit routes can become blocked, making safe evacuation more difficult 
  • fires will also spread much faster. Hoarded materials can easily catch alight if they come into contact with heat sources such as overloaded extension leads, the kitchen hob or naked flames like candles or cigarettes.

What to do

  • Encourage them not to light candles or tea lights of any kind.
  • Ensure they have appropriate heating so they are not using portable heaters, candles or gas hobs to heat the home.
  • If using portable heaters – make sure items aren’t placed on top of, or too close to them.
  • Suggest or make sure they smoke outside if they are a smoker, never smoke in bed, or where they could fall asleep and that they use proper ashtrays.
  • Work with them to develop an escape plan (read our advice on how to make an escape plan).
  • Book a home safety visit – so they can have a confidential and friendly conversation about fire safety in their home.
  • Read our hoarding advice.

9. Electrical dangers - overloaded electrical sockets/adaptors or extension leads

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From overloaded extension leads and cheap chargers, through to white goods not fit for the job, issues with electrical items are a common cause of fire.

What to do

Our free home safety visit service

If a person you care for shows any of these risks of fire, don’t delay, here’s what to do:

  • explain the fire risk to the person and take any immediate steps to reduce the risk
  • talk to them about our home safety visit service
  • obtain their consent for you to book a home safety visit
  • call 0800 05 02 999
  • or book using our online referral form.

When making the referral please provide your name and your 3-digit partnership number (if you have one), the person’s name, address, postcode and contact number as well as your contact details so someone can confirm the appointment.

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