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What to do if there is a fire

If there's a fire, you need to act quickly.

Make sure you are prepared and that everyone in your house knows exactly what to do.

Alert everyone                   

Make sure everyone in the house knows about the fire - shout and get everyone together.

Get everyone out

You should have an escape route planned that everyone in your house is familiar with.

As you escape, remember:

  • don't delay to save valuables or look for pets
  • don't investigate the fire
  • crawl on the floor if there's smoke - the air is cleaner near the floor
  • on the floor, put your nose as low as possible - remember, smoke is toxic and can kill you
  • as you go out, only open the doors you need to and close any open doors you can to slow the spread of the fire
  • feel doors with the back of your hand before you open them, if they're warm, don't open them - the fire is on the other side
  • if you're escaping with others, stay together if you can

If your clothes catch fire

  • don't run around - you will fan the flames and make them burn faster
  • lying down makes it harder for the fire to spread and reduces the effect of flames on your face and head - flames burn upwards
  • smother the flames - cover the flames with heavy material, like a coat or blanket; this blocks the fire's supply of oxygen
  • roll around - rolling smothers the flames

If you are trapped by fire

The common time for families to be caught in a fire situation is during the night. A good night time routine may help keep any escape route clear and a smoke alarm will give you an early warning of fire. However, if you are trapped by fire consider the following advice.

  • Get everyone into one room and close the door
  • Smoke and fumes can kill people quickly, so put bedding or towels along the bottom of the door to seal the gap
  • Open the window and stay near it for fresh air and let the Firefighters see you
  • Shout for help so neighbours can offer you assistance and call for the Fire Brigade
  • If you are on a ground or first floor, you may be able to escape from a window
  • If you have to break the window, cover the jagged glass with towels or thick bedding
  • Throw some more bedding out of the window to break your fall
  • Don't jump out of the window - lower yourself down to arm's length and drop to the ground
  • If you have any children or elderly or disabled people with you, plan the order you will escape in so that you can help them down
  • Don't stop or go back in for any reason

What to do if you live in a high-rise flat

If a fire starts in your flat or the stairwell and you can't get out:

  • get everyone into a room with a window - put cushions, bedding, or clothes around the bottom of the door to block smoke
  • open the window - if you feel in serious danger, wave a sheet out of the window so the firefighters know you're there
  • if the fire is directly outside your flat, seal your front door with tape, bedding or clothes, close any ventilators and phone 999
  • if your front door becomes hot, wet it down

Call 999

Once you're out and safe, try and find a phone to call the emergency services - 999 calls are free.

When you speak to the operator:

  • give your whole address, including the town
  • tell them what is on fire, eg 'a two-storey house'
  • explain if anyone is trapped and what room they're in - give as much information as you can so they can help you

Don't go back in

You should find somewhere safe to wait near the building.

If there's someone still inside, wait for the fire and rescue service to arrive.

You can tell them about the person and they will be able to find them quicker than you.

If you go back into the building, you will slow down the firefighters' efforts to rescue anyone else missing - and put your own life in danger.

Residential care and sheltered accommodation

Fire Safety information is for the benefit of everyone. However, not  everyone can achieve the advice because of age or a disability.

Building Managers have considered the advice and put additional provisions in place, know your building policy.

Do a safety check

  • Switch off at wall sockets all electrical appliances that do not need to be left on
  • Check and turn off gas appliances
  • Flatten down coals and put spark guard in front of open fires
  • Put out cigarette ends and dispose of in a metal dustbin or similar
  • Extinguish any candles and leave in a safe place
  • Close doors behind you, this will contain any fire inside the room
  • Closing doors behind you will also hold back smoke to allow a clear exit route

Stay put policy 

  • If the fire alarm sounds, unless the fire is in your flat, close any doors and stay put
  • Do not panic
  • Move to a window and open it to allow fresh air in
  • Wait until the Manager or the Firefighters give you further instructions
  • If you are in a communal area, do not go back to your flat - go to the designated assembly point, i.e. Communal lounge or reception area
  • Don't go back in for any reason
  • If you find the fire, break the call point glass and sound the alarm 

Get out policy 

  • If the fire alarm sounds, move to the designated assembly point
  • Do not panic, but move as quickly as possible
  • Wait until the Manager or the Firefighters give you further instructions
  • Don't go back in for any reason
  • If you find the fire, break the call point glass and sound the alarm

After a fire : what to do

There is support available to help you and your family after a fire, including temporary accommodation.

Find out what services you can access, what actions you need to take and your responsibility to protect your property from further damage.

Making sure your home is structurally safe 

After the fire is put out, the emergency services will tell you if they think the building is unsafe. If it is: 

  • they will tell the local building control officer
  • public access may be fenced off and the building repairs left to you
  • they may shore up or demolish the property to avoid danger to the public

Support available 

The fire and emergency support service is provided by British Red Cross volunteers using a specially adapted vehicle. 

They will arrive at the scene of any incident within 90 minutes of being called out, providing practical help and emotional support to those affected by fire. 

The service is able to provide: 

  • immediate temporary shelter in the vehicle
  • help finding temporary accommodation
  • first aid and emotional support
  • support with the care of children and pets
  • shower and toilet facilities
  • clothing, toiletries and light refreshments
  • the use of a phone and camera to help with insurance claims 

The service will respond to a request from the fire and rescue service. 

If you can't stay in your home 

If you can't live in your home after a fire, you could: 

  • arrange temporary accommodation with relatives or friends
  • contact your local council's housing office 

If you are made homeless by fire, there is help available

Financial assistance 

This is available to people who need financial help after an emergency or disaster.

First actions to take 

Make your property secure 

When the emergency services leave, you are responsible for the security of your property. 

Your insurers will expect you to make sure your home is secure. 

  • Remove all valuables from the property if it's safe to do so and close all doors and windows.
  • If windows and doors need boarding up, contact your local council if you are a council tenant.
  • If you're not a council tenant, you can find a glazier in a local phone directory, you can get access to the internet and phone directories at your local library.
  • Tell the police if you leave the property before it's secure, explaining any arrangements you have made with trades people. 

You will probably be charged for any services to make your home secure. You may be able to claim some costs back through your home insurance, so keep all receipts and paperwork.

Contact your insurance company 

Following a fire, it's advisable to contact your insurance company as soon as possible.

Energy and water suppliers 

If your electricity, gas or water supplies were damaged in the fire, or disconnected following it, contact your supplier to arrange repair and reconnection. 

Don't attempt to reconnect or turn on the supply yourself. 

You can find contacts for gas, water and electricity companies in a local phone directory (you can access one for free at a library).

Valuable documents and records 

If important personal documents are lost or damaged in your house fire, you'll need to contact a range of organisations to get replacements. 

Consider whether you need to get replacements for the follwoing documents, there may of course be others: 

  • driver's licence
  • passport
  • birth, marriage and death certificates
  • divorce papers
  • benefits and social security payments
  • property titles or deeds
  • income tax records
  • vehicle registration