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 easily be prevented.

Many home fires are caused by cooking accidents. Other causes are faulty or misused white goods and electrical appliances, overloaded sockets and damaged wiring. Careless use of matches, cigarettes and candles can also cause home fires. Airing clothing on or near fan heaters, not using fire guards, covering storage or convector heater vents, or using portable heaters close to curtains, also cause fires.

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 is a fire?

If your flat or maisonette is affected by fire or smoke:

  • Get everyone out, close doors (if safe to do so) and calmly leave the building.
  • Do not go back into the building. Personal items can be replaced, you cannot
  • If it’s safe to do so, call 999. Give your address, the number of your flat and state which floor the fire is on when speaking to the emergency services. Wait outside until London Fire Brigade arrive. If there is a fire in another part of the building:
  • If your block has been provided with a common fire alarm system, the alarm will alert you of the need to evacuate. You should leave the building upon hearing the alarm.
  • In purpose-built blocks the building is constructed in a way that keeps a fire in the flat that it starts in, protecting others in the building. It should therefore be safe to remain in your own flat if there is no fire or smoke affecting you, unless you are told to leave by London Fire Brigade. If you become aware of a fire, you may choose to leave, although you do not have to if there are no signs of fire within your flat. 
  • If you become aware of a fire at any time, wherever it occurs, you should phone 999 and advise the London Fire Brigade of the address and location of the fire.
  • If you are within the common parts of the building and become aware of a fire, leave immediately and call 999.

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, we will ensure that we develop an appropriate plan, or provide suitable equipment, to keep you safe. Please contact us on 0800 137 111.

Smoke alarms

The single most important thing that you can do to protect your family from fire is to ensure you have a working smoke alarm in your home. This will detect smoke at the earliest opportunity and give you that vital extra time to leave your home and get safely away from the fire. It is important that this is correctly located, tested regularly, and any faults are reported immediately to the Customer Service Centre on 0800 137 111.

Electrically operated (with battery back-up) smoke and heat alarms have been installed in most tenants’ homes and a programme is underway to install alarms in 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 on request. 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.

It is important that smoke and heat alarms are maintained, kept clean, tested regularly, and the battery replaced when required. You should test your alarms at least every month, but we recommend that it is better to test them every week. An easy way is to remember ‘Test it Tuesday’. Remind yourself to do this every Tuesday.

Fire doors

Our blocks are provided with self-closing fire doors to protected escape routes, such as corridors, lobbies and staircases. It is important that these critical fire doors are always kept closed, and are undamaged, so they perform their function in a fire.

Please do not prop them open at any time, as this will allow fire and smoke to pass through them.

If you notice that the door is not self-closing properly, please report it as soon as possible by calling 0800 137 111.

Flat entrance doors

Flat entrance doors in enclosed blocks of flats are also self-closing fire doors. They keep escape routes clear of fire and smoke in the case of a fire within a flat. The Council is replacing all tenants’ flat entrance fire doors over the next two years with new, high-performing fire doors. These will provide better fire protection and security than the previous doors.

Leaseholders will be able to purchase the higher standard door from our supplier at a reduced cost at the same time tenants’ doors are replaced. We recommend that leaseholders make use of this offer. However, if they can provide certification for their existing flat entrance door that proves the door meets requirements, they may be able to keep their existing door.

Flat entrance doors should not be changed without first seeking advice and approval from the Council. Installing a door that is not adequately fire-resisting is an offence under Building Regulations and the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 and can have serious costs and consequences to residents.

Doors inside your flat

Most doors, even if they are not technically fire doors, will hold back a fire for some time. As most fires start in kitchens and living rooms, it is advisable to always keep those doors closed, particularly at night.

If you live in a maisonette, it is particularly important to close doors at night so that you have time to escape down or up the stairs.

You should not remove doors to rooms within your flat, as they can perform an important function in keeping you and your family safe.

Fitting of security gates at flat entrance door

Some residents have installed a security gate at the entrance to their flat. These can be extremely dangerous in a fire because they require a key to open the gate. They also delay access by the London Fire Brigade. We strongly recommend that these gates are never installed, and if you have a gate, we encourage you to remove it immediately, or at least keep it unlocked for the safety of you and your family. The new flat entrance doors have a higher standard of security and are ‘secure by design’, which removes the need for a security gate.

Balconies

Many fires start on balconies and these can be easily prevented. Balcony fires can spread to inside your flat, so it is important that you keep your balcony free from storage and never cook or have a barbeque on your balcony. If you smoke on your balcony, please do not throw your cigarette over the balcony. Extinguish it fully in an ashtray before disposing of it in a bin.

White goods

Some white goods, such as tumble driers, fridges and dishwashers have been identified as having faults that cause them to unexpectedly catch fire.

We recommend that you check the goods in your home to ensure that they have not been subject to a recall. Details can be found on the GOV.UK website.

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

Chip pans (or pans filled with cooking oil at high temperature) are particularly dangerous. Please exercise care when using chip pans. In particular:

  • never fill more than one third full of fat or oil
  • dry potatoes before frying them as this reduces the risk of fire
  • if the oil or fat gives off 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 the 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. If possible, 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 reignite
  6. 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.

Fire Risk Assessments

The Council regularly carries out Fire Risk Assessments (FRAs) of all blocks. The FRAs look at fire prevention measures and consider whether these are adequate to keep people safe. We use independent, third-party certified specialists to provide the reports, which tell us what improvements to buildings are necessary.

We will publish executive summaries of each of our FRAs on our website. Residents can request copies of the full assessments, some of which may require the redaction of personal information.

Visit our Fire Risk Assessments web page.

Communal corridors and staircases

In almost every block the route from the main entrance door of your building to the front door of your home is your primary means of escape in a fire. It is therefore vital that all communal corridors, staircases, lift lobbies and so on are always kept clear and free from obstructions. Please do not store any combustible materials in the communal areas at any time.

Access roads

It is important that fire service access roads to blocks of flats are kept clear and unobstructed to allow access for the London Fire Brigade and other emergency services.

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 is 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
  • items are not stored in corridors or staircases. They can block escape routes, 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.

Fire Brigade Home Fire Safety Visits

If you have concerns about fire safety, please contact our Health and Safety Team on HM-HealthandSafetyTeam@rbkc.gov.uk

Alternatively, the Fire Brigade can carry out a Home Fire Safety Visit. They will visit you, carry out a Fire Risk Assessment of 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.