How to keep your flat safe
Your front door is a fire door which keeps you and your neighbours safe. Never prop it open or remove the metal arm or chain which closes it. If it doesn’t close on its own then let your landlord, managing agent, social housing provider or housing association know as soon as possible.
Closing all the doors in your household can help to prevent a fire from spreading. It’s advised to prioritise closing your kitchen and lounge doors as these areas are higher risk.
Don’t leave your cooking unattended. Unattended cooking is one of the leading causes of fires and can begin and spread quicker than you think.
What to do if a fire is in your building
It’s important for your own safety to understand what to do in the event of a fire, whether it’s in your flat or somewhere else in the building.
If there is a fire or smoke in your flat you should:
- never try to fight a fire yourself
- close the door of the room where the fire is if it’s safe to do so
- alert any other people in your flat and activate any manual fire alarms
- get out, stay low if there is smoke, close all doors behind you and stay out
- call the fire service by dialling 999, stay on the line as you evacuate the building. Never assume someone else has called
- always use the stairs to get out of the building and keep left. Don’t use a lift unless instructed by a Firefighter. This is because the fire may cause a power failure, trapping you inside. It may also stop Firefighters from using it to transport equipment to higher levels
- not go back into the building to retrieve valuables or pets until the fire service says it is safe to do so
It’s important to find out where the muster point for your building is which is usually outside of your building in a specific area. Contact your landlord to find out where your muster point is for your building. It’s dangerous to gather in the hallway or lobby area as you might block access for Firefighters.
Fire in another part of the building
For many buildings it’s safer for you to stay in your flat, however some flats in interim measures may have a full evacuation plan instead. You should find out what the advice is for your building from your landlord and know your escape plan.
If you do feel unsafe or your flat is affected by heat or smoke, then get out and call the fire service by dialling 999 and stay on the line.
If a member of the fire service tells you to leave the building, you should do so immediately.
If you’re cut off by fire
If a fire is blocking your escape route you should:
- stay inside the safest room with a window that opens to fresh air, ring 999 and stay on the line for advice
- keep the door closed and use towels or bedding at the bottom of the door to block the smoke
- go to the balcony or window so that you can be seen. Do not try tojump to safety.
- wait to be rescued by a Firefighter
Firefighters may put up smoke curtains, that help smoke from spreading, if you need to escape, you can easily go through the curtain. The Firefighters may put a smoke hood over your head to help you escape, it helps filter toxic smoke from the air.
Know your escape plan
Ask your landlord or housing provider for the evacuation plan for your building if you don’t already have it. There are usually 2 tiers which are used when considering a building evacuation.
Unless the fire is in your flat or a direct neighbour’s, it’s advised that you stay in your home and keep your front door and windows closed. Stay together, tune into local TV or radio and await instructions from emergency services. Firefighters will knock on your door if they need you to evacuate. Unnecessary evacuation can obstruct firefighters and delay them putting the fire out.
The fire service may decide to evacuate the building. This may be done on a floor-by-floor basis.
Plan your escape
Make sure you and those you live with know how to escape in the event of a fire. You should:
- keep your doorways and hallways free from clutter. This includes communal areas. Report any discarded rubbish to your landlord
- choose a second escape route if there is one, in case the first one is blocked
- keep door and window keys accessible, avoid keeping them in the kitchen, as this is where most fires in the home start. Everyone in the flat should know where the keys are
- only try and escape through a window if you're on the ground or first floor (under 3m in height) and your escape route is blocked. If you're higher up, wait to be rescued by Firefighters
- Stay out your property once you've escaped. Don't go back inside your home, even if there is someone or pets left inside. Wait for Firefighters and when they arrive give them as much information as possible
- never block emergency access to your building or the hydrants. Firefighters need to get their fire engines as close as possible to the entrance and be able to access the hydrants for additional water supply
Your building may have dry or wet riser pipes, which run internally through the block and are usually painted red. The pipes provide water to higher floors to tackle fires. It is important that you report any damage to this equipment as soon as you see it.
Balconies can be a great place to spend time and get some fresh air. Make sure you enjoy your balcony safely. When using your balcony you should:
- not use chimineas, BBQs, disposable BBQs, fire pits, candles, or any other form of open fire under any circumstances. They are a high risk fire hazard and the fumes can travel upwards to other flats and cause CO poisoning
- never store or set off fireworks or flares on your balcony
- remove rubbish, reduce clutter, and try and keep items on the balcony to a minimum, such as soft furnishings, flags and drying laundry
- never store flammable materials such as gas bottles on your balcony
- make sure you stub cigarettes out and never flick them off your balcony if you smoke. Use a suitable ashtray and dispose of the contents safely by using a metal bucket full of water or sand
If you have concerns about balconies on your building in the first instance, contact your landlord.