Fire safety

Main causes of fire

Each year across the UK there are approximately 37,000 accidental fires in the home. Many of these are caused by a single moment of distraction and could have easily been prevented.

More than half of home fires are caused by cooking accidents with other main causes being careless use of matches and cigarettes, candles, airing clothing on or near fan heaters, not using fire guards, covering storage or convector heater vents or using portable heaters close to curtains, faulty electrics (appliance, wiring and overloaded sockets).

Under the conditions of your tenancy or leasehold agreement, you must not use or store liquefied or petroleum gas (LPG), Calor gas or paraffin anywhere in your home.

What should I do if there’s a fire?

London Fire Brigade advises:

If your flat or maisonette is being affected by fire or smoke and your escape route is clear:

  • Get everyone out, close all windows and doors and walk calmly out of the building using the fire escape route.
  • Do not use the lift.
  • Call 999, give your address, the number of your flat and state which floor the fire is on.

If there is a fire or smoke inside your flat or maisonette but your escape route is NOT clear:

  • It may still be safer to stay in your flat or maisonette until the fire brigade arrives.
  • Find a safe room, close the door and use soft materials to block any gaps to stop the smoke.
  • Go to a window, shout “HELP, FIRE” and call 999.
  • Be ready to describe where you are and the quickest way to reach you.

If there is a fire in another part of the building:

  • If you have been advised by the Council to evacuate in the event of a fire you should do so unless your escape route is prevented.
  • In purpose-built blocks you are usually safer staying put and calling 999.  Purpose built blocks of flats are built to give you some protection from fire. 
  • Tell the Fire Brigade where you are and the best way to reach you.
  • If you are within the common parts of the building, leave and call 999.

Smoke alarms

The single most important thing that you can do to protect your family from fire is to ensure that you have a working smoke alarm in your home. This will detect smoke at the earliest possible moment and give you that vital extra time to leave your property and get safely away from the fire. (It is important that this is correctly located, tested on a regular basis and any faults reported immediately to the Customer Service Centre).

Electrically operated (with battery back-up) smoke and heat detection has been installed in most tenants’ homes and a programme is currently on site to install the same within the remaining homes. All residents living in homes where no smoke alarm is currently fitted are encouraged to fit a battery-powered alarm immediately. The London Fire Brigade will fit a battery-operated smoke alarm as part of its Home Fire Safety Visit which is free and available to all on request – contact details below.

It is important that smoke and heat alarms are maintained, kept clean and tested on a weekly basis and the battery replaced as and when required.

How can I be fire safe when using a chip pan or deep fat fryer?

Of the large number of cooking fires in the home, the overwhelming majority of these (approximately 15,000 each year) are caused by chip pans. Please exercise care when using chip pans. In particular:

  • never fill more than one third full of fat/ oil
  • dry potatoes before frying them as this reduces the risk of fire
  • if the oil or fat gives off blue smoke it is too hot – switch off the heat immediately
  • never leave a chip pan unattended with the heat on. If the telephone or doorbell rings, switch off the heat whilst you are attending to them.

If your chip pan catches fire:

1. Switch off burner/ring immediately.
2. Do not move the pan.
3. Never throw water on the fire as this will make the fire spread and could significantly increase the risk of injury.
4. Do not cover it with a wet or damp towel.
5. Cover the pan with the pan lid or a fire blanket after turning off the heat source and leave it for at least half an hour. If the lid or fire blanket are removed too soon, the fire may re-ignite.Close the door to the kitchen and call the Fire Brigade on 999.

Fire safety and smoking

Smoking is a major cause of fire fatalities, as well as a major risk to your health. Whether you are smoking inside your home or outside, make sure you put out your cigarettes completely and dispose of them properly. Never throw cigarette butts from your balcony. The London Fire Brigade has some safety tips for smokers on its website.

I am worried that I am unable to leave my home in the event of a fire because of mobility issues

If you or a member of your household would have difficulty leaving your home and getting to a place of safety if there was a fire, then let us know and we will let the fire brigade know that you need extra assistance.  Contact us on 0800 137 111.

Fire resisting self-closing doors

These doors are found in most buildings and include the entrance doors to all flats and maisonettes located within enclosed blocks, doors to stairways, communal landings/corridors and most kitchen doors. You must never prop open the door or remove the self-closers. They are designed to slow the spread of fire and smoke and keep you and others safe. 

Replacing front entrance doors

Residents in our homes who are keen to replace their front entrance fire door should be aware that this may put you and your neighbours at risk. You must seek advice from the Council before replacing the door and ensure a copy of the new door’s fire certification confirming compliance is provided to Housing Management.

Fitting of security gates at flat entrance door

Some residents have installed a security gate at the entrance to their flat. The Fire Brigade has advised that this will cause them a degree of delay should they be required to rescue the residents in the event of a fire or emergency within the flat. The Fire Brigade strongly urges residents to make sure that they have a working smoke alarm fitted within their property.

Fire Risk Assessments (FRAs)

A fire safety risk assessment (FRA) is a routine process that checks the fire safety of a building and analyses its fire safety issues.

The Council is required by law to carry out fire risk assessments on all of its social housing. The purpose of these assessments is to highlight any issues within the communal areas of our housing, enabling us to take the necessary action to remove or reduce the risk associated with fire. These assessments look at the block's existing fire safety measures, how they are maintained, the inspection regime and identify the appropriate evacuation plan for the building. A programme of new FRAs for our social housing is currently underway. As the reports are received they will be uploaded onto the Council’s website and made available to all. If you require a copy of the existing FRA for your block in advance of the new one being produced please contact the Housing Management Health and Safety Team on 020 7605 6344.

Visit our Fire Risk Assessments web page

Communal corridors and staircases

In almost every block the route from the main entrance door of your block to the front door of your home serves as your primary means of escape in the event of fire. It is, therefore, imperative that all communal corridors, staircases, lift lobbies etc. are kept clear and free of obstruction at all times. Please do not store anything in the communal areas.

Access roads

It is important that fire service access roads to blocks of flats are kept clear and unobstructed to allow access for the Fire Brigade and other emergency services so that they are not delayed.

Advice from the London Fire Brigade 

What to look out for in your building

Fire safety in all buildings is also dependent upon good maintenance and housekeeping.

In maisonettes and blocks of flats it’s essential that:

  • all flat front doors and doors on corridors and staircases must be ‘self-closing’ fire doors
  • fire doors must ‘self-close’ properly, and not be held or wedged open - they are designed to stop the spread of fire
  • things aren’t stored in corridors or staircases. This can block escape routes and stop firefighters doing their job and can also feed the fire
  • storage on balconies is kept to a minimum
  • everyone who lives in the building knows the evacuation plan. Are there signs that show you how to escape fire?

Fire Brigade Home Fire Safety Visits

If you have concerns about fire safety please contact our Health and Safety Team.

Alternatively the Fire Brigade can carry out a Home Fire Safety Visit. They will visit you, carry out a fire risk assessment within your home, offer you specific fire safety advice and advise you on what to do in the event of fire. They will also fit a smoke alarm if you do not already have one fitted. You can arrange a Home Fire Safety Visit by calling the Fire Brigade on 08000 28 44 28. You can also book a visit on the London Fire Brigade's website.