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Fire safety in the home

Advice on how you can keep yourself and your home safe from fire.

It's important that you know how to reduce the chances of a fire starting in your home and keep yourself, your family and your property safe from fire.

Most fires in the home are caused by things many of us might do such as:

  • smoking
  • leaving food in an oven or on a stove while doing something else
  • using candles
  • storing large amounts of flammable material
  • leaving faulty electrical appliances on
  • having too many things plugged into electrical sockets.

The London Fire Brigade website has a lot of practical guidance to help reduce the risk of a fire breaking out in your home.

Make a plan in case of fire

Preparing and practising a plan of action will help you to act quickly if there is a fire. Everyone at your home should know this plan and should go through it together if possible.

  • Put a reminder of what to do in case of fire on the fridge door or notice board.
  • Make sure everyone knows where the keys to doors and windows are kept.
  • Choose an escape route. The best route is usually the normal way in and out of your home. Think of any difficulties you or the other people in your household may have and prepare for these.
  • Choose a second escape route as well and keep both these routes clear. Remember, if you live on a ground floor, a window could be used as an escape route.
  • Plan the order that you will escape in, so that if you have to go out of a window you can help others out (ground and first floor only).
  • Choose a safe room. If you can’t escape you will need to find a room where you can wait for the fire brigade. A safe room should have a window and a telephone.

Fire in the home

If there is smoke or fire inside your flat or maisonette and your escape route is clear

  • Get everyone out
  • Close the door and walk calmly out of the building
  • Do not use the lift
  • Call 999, give your address, the number of your flat, and say which floor the fire is on.

If there is smoke or fire inside your flat or maisonette and your escape route is NOT clear

It may 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 the gap to stop the smoke.
  • Go to a window, shout “fire, help” and call 999.
  • Tell emergency services where you are and the quickest way to reach you.
  • Do not try to escape through windows above the first floor - you could get serious injured.

If there is a fire in another part of the building

What you need to do will depend on the building.

For most purpose-built properties

  • Your walls, floors and doors will give you at least 30 to 60 minutes of protection from a fire. This lets you stay in your flat safely while the fire brigade deal with the fire.
  • You are usually safer to stay in your flat if there is fire elsewhere in the building unless the heat and smoke starts affecting you. Then, leave by the stairs if it is safe.
  • If it is not safe to leave and you stay in your flat, call 999 and let them know which flat you are in.

Simultaneous evacuation

  • Some properties do not have the level of structural fire protection as above.
  • These properties will be fitted with linked alarms so that if a fire starts in one flat, all other flats' alarms will go off so that everyone can leave at the same time.

If you are in communal areas of the building

  • Leave safely and call 999.

Other things to remember during a fire

  • Close any open doors and only open the doors you need to go through. This will help to stop the fire spreading fast.
  • Check the warmth of doors with the back of your hand. If a door is warm, don’t open it because the fire is on the other side.
  • If there is a lot of smoke, crawl along the floor where you can breathe easier.
  • Don’t go back into the building for anything. If there is still someone inside, tell firefighters when they arrive. They will be able to find the person quicker and more safely than you.
  • Find somewhere safe to wait for the fire brigade. When they arrive, try to give them as much information as possible about the fire and building such as where the fire started and if there are any particular hazards such as medical oxygen cylinders.

Smoke detection and warning

Make sure you have working smoke / heat alarms installed.

Islington Council has installed smoke and/or heat detectors in your homes. They make a loud noise when there's signs of fire in your home giving time to escape.

The detectors are usually connected to the mains electricity. If there is a power failure, or not enough money on your key meter, the battery back-up in the alarms will run out in around two days. The alarms will not work again until mains power comes back on and fully recharges the back-up batteries.

Make sure to test your smoke alarm regularly and report any problems with them to Housing Direct on 080 0694 3344.

Fire doors

Fire doors are a barrier to fire and smoke and will help slow down the spread of fire in your home or the common areas of a building.

They protect escape routes within a flat until you and others living there can reach the front door or stop smoke from a fire spreading to the common areas and stopping your neighbours in the building from escaping.

Where your flat is in a building will decide what standard of door you need and the amount of time the door needs to hold back smoke or fire.

If a fire breaks out in one flat, the flat entrance door will help to stop the fire and smoke from spreading into communal areas and corridors, allowing you and others to escape the building safely. You must keep the self-closing device in place for this to work. Do not remove it.

For any fire door to protect people, everyone must:

  • close fire doors when you are not using them (for example, close your living room and kitchen doors at night)
  • not touch or remove self-closing devices on the doors
  • not try to fix, drill or cut a fire door or paint over the seals on a fire door
  • not replace the handles, hinges or any hardware on a fire door.

Report any problems or changes to the door straight away to Housing Direct on 080 0694 3344.

Leaseholders are responsible for the front entrance doors to their home. Leaseholders who want to change something on their front door should contact the council for advice and permission for the work.

Replacing fire doors with sub-standard items may compromise the safety of other building occupants in the event of a fire.

Fire safety in your block

Fire safety in shared areas

Make sure that items that could catch fire or get in someone's way in an emergency are not kept in shared areas. 

Council staff check communal areas regularly. If we see any items which could be a hazard we will let you know. You will have seven days to move them, before we remove your items and we may throw them away.

If our team are really concerned, we will remove hazardous items straight away to keep everyone safe. We’ll try to let the owners know and as a last resort we may dispose of the items.

Please help us keep shared areas clear, and contact our friendly team if you need advice on storage options.

Find out what your fire safety responsibilities are as a tenant.

What you can keep in shared areas with an enclosed corridor

  • One small doormat outside your front door.

What you can keep in shared areas with an open balcony

  • One small doormat outside your front door.
  • A few real plants (not plastic) in ceramic, stone or metal pots - they must not be in anyone's way.
  • One mirror or picture attached to the wall, no bigger than 45 cm and more than one metre from the corner of the wall.

What you can't keep in shared areas

Anything else that could be a fire hazard or block an escape route. You can find a list of dangerous items that should be removed straight away in your fire safety responsibilities. 

Storage of combustible materials

Don’t store combustible items (things that are likely to set on fire with high heat or a spark) in store cupboards. We may ask to check your storage cupboard for combustible material. Please help us by letting us have a look – we are only checking to keep you and your neighbours safe.  

If you need advice about storage, please contact Housing Services.

Fire Risk Assessments and what they are for

The FRA is a detailed examination of the communal parts of the building that looks at its use and how many people live and use the area. You can find out more about more on our FRAs webpage

If you live in a flat or maisonette and there is a fire elsewhere in your block, will decide the fire safety strategy for your building. Read your FRA to find out which strategy your building uses.

Home fire safety visits

We work closely with the fire and rescue service to make sure the fire safety arrangements for our housing stock are as good as they should be.

The Home and Estates Safety Board monitor our fire safety arrangements. This board meets four times a year and representatives from the London Fire Brigade (LFB) attend when we discuss fire safety. We also share regular fire safety performance information with the LFB. 

Visit the LFB website for the most up-to-date fire safety advice. You will also be able to access the LFB’s Home Fire Safety Checker and ask for a Home Fire Safety Visit if needed.

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