Keep your home safe

Keep your home safe

Here you will find advice on keeping your home safe from fire.

Fire facts - did you know?

Did you know?

  • You are four times more likely to die in a fire if you don’t have a working smoke alarm.
  • 21 people die annually because the battery in their smoke alarm was flat or missing.
  • Around half of fires in the home are caused by cooking accidents.
  • Daily, three fires are started by candles.
  • Every five days someone dies from a fire caused by cigarettes.
  • Faulty electrics cause about 6,000 house fires countrywide every year.

Smoke alarms

The easiest way to protect your home and family is by installing a smoke alarm.

Free smoke alarms & home safety checks
Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service provide home fire safety checks and smoke alarms to members of the public who live in the county.

Protect yourself from the devastating effects of a fire by applying for your home fire safety check and smoke alarms today by:
If your property is owned by a private landlord, they must comply with the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015. Failure to comply could result in a fine of up to £5,000 for your landlord. For more information, please visit this website. 
Fitting & maintaining a smoke alarm
Where to fit a smoke alarm:
  • every level of your home
  • not near kitchens or bathrooms where smoke/steam can accidentally set them off
  • approximately 30 cms from the wall, on the ceiling
How to maintain your smoke alarm:
  • weekly tests (press the button until the alarm sounds)
  • annual battery changes
  • replacing the alarm every 10 years
  • never disconnecting or removing batteries
  • keeping the alarm free from dust
Different types of smoke alarm available:
  • standard battery operated alarms – the cheapest option
  • an alarm with 10-year batteries – best option for those who forget to check batteries annually
  • hard-wired alarms powered by home power supply (required installation by a qualified electrician)
  • alarms that plug into a light socket that use a rechargeable battery
  • strobe light and vibrating pad alarms for those who are deaf/hard of hearing
We can supply and fit either standard 10-year battery alarms or those suitable for those who are deaf/hard of hearing. If you wish to apply for an alarm, please contact us today.

Please be aware our smoke alarm and home safety check service may not be available during periods of industrial action.

Plan a safe escape from fire

Fitting a smoke alarm is the first crucial step to fire protection. Planning an escape is also crucial.

How to plan a safe escape from fire

If there is a fire in your home:

  • Do not tackle the fire yourself.
  • Keep calm and act quickly – get everyone out as soon as possible.
  • Don’t waste time investigating, or rescuing valuables.
  • If there is smoke, keep low where the air is clearer.
  • If a door is warm, don’t open as fire is on the other side.
  • Call 999 as soon as you are out of the building.

Make an escape plan now!

  • Plan an escape route, ensuring everyone knows how to escape.
  • Keep doors and window keys easily accessible.
  • Make sure exits are kept clear.
  • Use the normal route in and out of your home.
  • Think of a second route in case it is blocked.
  • Practice your escape plan, involving everyone in the house.
  • Review the plan if your home layout changes.

What to do if your clothes catch fire:

  • Stop, drop and roll.
  • Don’t run around – the flame will worsen.
  • Lie down and roll around – it makes it harder for the fire to spread.
  • Smother flames with heavy materials like a coat or blanket.

What to do if your escape is blocked:

  • Get everyone into one room, ideally with a window and phone.
  • Put bedding around the bottom of the door to block out smoke.
  • Open a window and shout for help.

If you are on the ground floor:

  • You may be able to escape through an open window.
  • If not, break the glass in the bottom corner, making jagged edges safe with a towel or blanket.

If you are on the first floor:

  • As a last option, you may be able to escape through a window.
  • Use bedding (not a mattress) to cushion your fall and lower yourself down carefully. Don't jump.

How to escape from a high level building:

  • Avoid using lifts and balconies.
  • Check corridors are clear of flammable items like boxes.
  • Ensure doors to stairways are not locked.
  • Count how many doors you need to go through to reach the stairs.
  • Make sure everyone knows where the smoke alarms are.
  • Even if there is a warning system, have your own smoke alarm.

Bedtime fire routine

You are more at risk from fire when sleeping, so you should check your home nightly before you go to bed.

Bedtime fire checklist

Ensure you follow our bedtime checklist – it could save your life!

  • Close inside doors at night to stop a fire spreading.
  • Turn off and unplug non-essential electrical appliances.
  • Ensure the cooker is off.
  • Turn heaters off and put up fire guards.
  • Extinguish candles and cigarettes properly.
  • Keep exits clear.
  • Keep door and window keys easily accessible.

Fire safety in the kitchen

Around half of fires in the home are caused by cooking accidents.

How to cook safely

If a pan catches fire while you are cooking:

  • Don’t take any risks – turn off the heat if it is safe.
  • Never throw water over a pan containing oil.
  • Don’t tackle the fire yourself.

How to cook safely:

  • Turn off the heat if you need to leave the kitchen.
  • Ensure pan handles don’t stick out, so they cannot be knocked off.
  • Avoid leaving children alone and keep matches and pan handles out of reach.
  • Keep tea towels and clothes away from the cooker and hob.
  • Take care if you’re wearing loose clothing.
  • Double check the cooker is turned off when you are finished.
  • Keep electrical appliances away from water.
  • Check toasters are clean and placed away from flammables.
  • Keep your oven, hob and grill clean.
  • Don’t put metals in the microwave.
  • Don’t cook under the influence of alcohol.

Deep fat frying:

  • Hot oil sets alight easily.
  • Ensure food is dry before putting it in hot oil to avoid splashing.
  • Smoking oil means it is too hot - turn off the heat and leave to cool.
  • Use a thermostat-controlled electric deep fat fryer as they can’t overheat.

Electrical fire safety

Faulty electrics cause about 6,000 house fires nationwide each year.

How to stay safe from fire with electricals

Avoid electrical fires:

  • Ensure you are using the right fuse to prevent overheating.
  • Ensure electrical appliances have a British or European safety mark when purchasing.
  • High-powered electrical items should have a single plug to themselves.
  • Don’t overload sockets – keep one plug per socket.
  • Keep appliances clean and in good working order.
  • Be aware of dangerous/loose wiring or scorch marks, hot plugs, blown fuses, circuit breakers that trip for no obvious reason, or flickering lights.
  • Check and replace old cables/leads.
  • Items not being used should be kept unplugged.

Electrical blankets:

  • Store flat or rolled up to avoid damage to the internal wiring – do not fold.
  • Unplug before you get into bed, unless it has a thermostat control for safe use.
  • Try not to buy secondhand blankets.
  • Check regularly for wear and tear.

Portable heaters:

  • Secure heaters against walls to stop them from falling.
  • Keep clear from curtains/furniture and never use them for drying clothes.

To learn more about electrical safety, please visit the Electrical Safety Council’s website.

Chimney fires

If you regularly clean and inspect your chimney, you can prevent a fire occurring. If you think your chimney might be on fire, evacuate the building and call 999.

Advice on sweeping your chimney
The cost of a chimney sweep is small compared to the potential costs of a chimney fire.

Why sweep your chimney?
  • It reduces the build-up of soot, which may ignite.
  • It clears any potential obstructions caused by nests, leaves and debris.
  • It reduces risk of fire.
  • It reduces risk of carbon monoxide build-up/poisoning.
Household insurance policies often state policyholders should take reasonable care to maintain appliances and their flues. In some cases, insurers will specify the frequency with which a chimney should be swept.

If you live in a rented property, landlords have a duty of care to repair and keep in working order any room heater and water heating equipment for you as their tenant.

How often should you clean your chimney?
It is recommended you follow the chimney sweeping frequencies outlined below:
Type of appliance Chimney sweeping frequency
Solid fuel appliances Once annually for smokeless fuel, twice for coal
Wood burning appliances Every three months when in use
Gas appliances Annually, if designed for sweeping
Oil fired appliances Annually

Common warning signs of a possible chimney fire are:
  • a loud roaring noise – massive amounts of air being sucked through the burner or fireplace opening
  • sparks and flames shooting from the chimney top (similar to fireworks in appearance)
  • glowing or shimmery outlets or connectors
  • vibrating appliances, outlets or connectors
  • flames visible through any cracks in the outlet or connector
  • smoke or smells noticeable in adjoining rooms or loft space
  • chimney breast or flue pipe heating up in either the same room, or others they pass through
Please note that this information should be treated as a guide only, as it is possible to experience a chimney fire without the aforementioned characteristics.

After a chimney fire
If you have a chimney fire, you should always dial 999. Afterwards, you may not be able to use the chimney again until a certified sweep has completed a thorough inspection to check for damage or if any repairs are required.

Re-opening an old fireplace
If you are planning to re-open an old fireplace, seek professional advice from a certified chimney sweep.
How to prevent a chimney fire
Here are a few simple tips to follow to help prevent chimney fires:
  • Sweep before use if it has not been used for a while.
  • Ensure a fireguard is in front of the fire at all times.
  • Spark guards can prevent serious property fires.
  • Extinguish the flame before bed or leaving the house.
  • Never use petrol or paraffin to light your fire.
It is also good practice to regularly inspect the chimney breast in all rooms that it passes through (including roof space). Ensure sparks or fumes are not escaping through cracks, broken mortar or bricks.
You can also help save your life, and those of your family and friends, if you make sure you have:
  • a working smoke alarm on each floor
  • a carbon monoxide alarm in any rooms featuring a working fireplace
  • an escape plan in the event of a fire
Here are some extra safety tips if you burn wood:
  • Ensure all wood burnt has a moisture content below 17 per cent, by buying seasoned wood from reputable suppliers.
  • Choose the correct size appliance: one too large will never burn all of the fuel contained in the wood. Any unburned fuel will pass up the chimney as smoke and condense as extremely flammable creosote.
  • If you have a wood burner, always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations on fuel loading and air flow.
  • If you plan to reopen an old fireplace, seek professional advice from a certified chimney sweep.
Chimney Fire Safety Week takes place annually and last took place on Monday 4th to Sunday 10th September 2017. You can find tips and advice on how to prevent chimney fires on the safety week website by clicking here.
Find a certified chimney sweep
To find a certified chimney sweep, or for more information on chimney fire safety, please contact:

Candle fires

Three fires a day are started by candles.

Be careful with candles
Always be careful with candles:
  • Ensure candles are secured in a proper holder, away from materials that could ignite.
  • Extinguish candles when you leave the room, especially at night.
  • Do not leave children alone with lit candles.
  • Keep matches/lighters out of reach of children.

Cigarette fires

Every five days someone dies from a fire caused by a cigarette.

To avoid cigarette fires, put it out – right out.

  • Stub cigarettes out properly, dispose of them carefully.
  • Use a proper ashtray, one that doesn’t tip over and is made of inflammable material.
  • Don’t leave a lit cigarette, cigar or pipe lying around.
  • Take extra care if smoking when tired, taking prescription drugs, or if you have been drinking.
  • Never smoke in bed.
  • Keep matches and lighters out of reach of children.
  • Consider child-resistant lighters and match boxes.

Fair Processing Notice / Privacy Notice

Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service works hard to keep people safe at home, on the roads and in the community. In order to do this work we will often need the name and address of our service users. To ensure people get the right services we may ask for further information such as age and health requirements. This helps us to understand what peoples’ needs are and who else may be able to help.

We work closely with other agencies, and may offer assistance from other areas of the Council such as health services, adult and children's services and may, for the purpose of making vulnerable people safer, share personal information with other agencies.

Other agencies share information about people with Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service, where both parties have identified that the people concerned are at a higher risk from fire and other emergencies, in particular fires in the home.

For example; NHS England, the Royal College of General Practitioners and Fire and Rescue Services (FRS) in England work together to share information (where relevant, proportionate and necessary) to allow fire service personnel to undertake home safety assessments for those people who would most benefit from a visit.

The majority of fire deaths in the UK occur amongst the elderly population.  Older people are most vulnerable to fire and a number of other risks. A Safe and Wellbeing visit from the FRS is proven to make them safer and can reduce risk significantly.

In one area of the UK where this work has been piloted since 2007, there have been very significant reductions in fire deaths and injuries which has developed into a current trend well below the national average.  Therefore we know this work can save many lives.

The FRS and NHS will continue to work together in the future to ensure the visits undertaken by the FRS are effective in helping to make people safe and well.