Keeping safe is important for us all. However, it can become difficult to maintain safety as we get older, particularly if living alone.
Kent Fire and Rescue Service can help you feel safe and well by reducing risk in your home and supporting you with challenges you might experience. We all want you to stay safe in your home for as long as possible.
Mobility, hearing and sight issues
An uncluttered home can help reduce slip, trips, and falls
- Too much clutter can add to confusion. It can also present trip hazards and potential fire hazards.
- Removing loose rugs and mats, seal up carpet edges and provide non-slip flooring to reduce the risk of hazards.
- Tripping over a loose heater cable could result in someone falling onto the heater and seriously hurting themselves or worse.
- Having less clutter, with clearly defined walkways is particularly important if you have mobility and sight problems if you use a stick or a walking frame to get around.
Good lighting throughout the home makes a difference
- Good lighting means that you will be able to find your way around better and feel safer.
- Bright lighting will also help navigation in the event of a fire in the home.
- Use higher wattage light bulbs.
- Consider buying some small plug-in night lights or stick-on battery-operated push lights for the corridors or hallways and some high visibility light switch covers to help you find the light switches more easily.
Clear a path to the bathroom so it's easier to get to at night
- Consider using plug-in night lights along the hall.
- Ensure all exits (doors and windows) are kept free from clutter.
You could arrange for meals to either be brought in each day or have a care agency come in to prepare meals.
Reduce cooking hazards with the right devices
- There are different living devices available, such as automatic cut-offs for cookers (see above)
- As part of Kent Fire and Rescue Service's Safe and Well Visit, we can fit devices, through our partnership with SGN.
- Using a kitchen timer is a good way of helping you to remember that something is cooking.
- To book a FREE Safe and Well Visit - please call 0800 923 7000
Reduce the risk of a kitchen fire
- Try to keep the cooker clear and that nothing is left on top of the hob (such as a tea towel, for example).
- Keep the sides clear.
- Keep the hob, oven, and grill clean so there is less likelihood of a build-up of cooking grease which may start to smoke or even catch fire.
Electric blanket safety
- Remove electric blankets from beds if you or a loved one is incontinent - this is very high risk.
If incontinence isn't an issue, an electric blanket may be used. However, it is important to ensure that it has all relevant safety features, such as automatic switch-off at a certain temperature or after a time limit.
Get plugged in safely
Labeling plug switches with instructions is very helpful such as "Do not switch off" or "Switch off at night".
- Label plugs with the name of the equipment it is connected to: such as "TV", "Sky Box", "DVD Player", "stereo", "washing machine" and "toaster".
- Check plugs throughout the home to ensure a good fit in the socket.
- Where possible, do not use the old multi-plug adaptors as these have a tendency to pull out of the socket when there are several plugs connected to them. Consider replacing them with a standard, short cable 4-plug extension lead (particularly those with the individual switch next to each socket).
- Never overload sockets.
- No plug socket should contain more than a total of 13 Amps-worth of appliances. For example, if you have a double wall socket then you can have up to 13 Amps worth of appliances in each socket. If you are using an extension lead, it is simply an extension of the one plug socket, and as such should not contain more than a total of 13 Amps worth of appliances.
Check for warm plugs
Regularly check for warm or hot plugs or sockets, scorch marks, fuses that often blow or flickering lights they may all be indicators of loose or damaged wiring or other electrical problems.
Electrical appliances and cable safety
- Frayed or damaged cables - if you find any of these, have them replaced by a qualified electrician.
- Avoid putting appliance cables under carpets, mats or rugs, as walking over them will start to wear the protective cable covering until bare wires are exposed, potentially causing a fire.
- Avoiding using reel-type extension leads indoors if possible. If you do, then the full length of cable must be fully unwound and left loosely coiled with plenty of air around it. If left fully wound, the cable may overheat and catch fire.
- Keep electrical appliances away from water, for example: do not place a vase of flowers on top of a TV set or use an electric fire in a bathroom.
- Switch off as many electrical appliances as possible at night.
- Make sure that all plugs are correctly wired and the wires securely contained within the plug.
- Avoid trailing cables in the kitchen, eg.the kettle cable hanging over the side of the counter.
Fires and heating safety
If an open fire is in use:
- Ensure that the chimney is swept regularly and is safe to use.
- Have it cleaned an inspected at least once a year.
- Ensure that an adequate spark guard is always left in place
- Even when it would seem the fire has died out.
- Sparks can unexpectedly shoot out of even a damped down fire and set fire to a rug or carpet.
- Drying clothes in front of an open fire is a big fire safety risk so try to avoid this practice
- Ensure all wood, coal and other fuels are stored at a safe distance from the fire.
- Also, make sure that there is no clutter on or around the fireplace.
- Ensure that chimneys, flues, and vents are not blocked and have them checked regularly.
If a gas fire is in use
- Make sure it's serviced by a Gas Safe engineer at least once a year. If it becomes apparent that this kind of fire is advertently being left on or not used safely, then consider having the gas supply disconnected and install a safer form of heating.
- Avoid having exposed element heaters in the home. Consider buying oil filled radiators with thermostatic/timer controls.
- Electric heaters should be placed well away from anything flammable, such as furniture, curtains, and seating.
- Think about fitting a guard.
- These heaters should not be left unattended or left on overnight.
If an electrical fire or heater is in use
- Make sure they are serviced regularly.
- Think about fitting an extra guard, and keep them a safe distance from furniture and curtains.
- If there are concerns about using gas or electrical appliances correctly, contact your gas or electrical company.
Carbon monoxide (CO) alarms
- Any room with gas appliances, open fires or wood burners should have carbon monoxide alarms.
- You can also purchase gas alarms, which will detect ‘non-burning’ gas – for example, if the gas hob has been switched on but not ignited.
- Ensure there's an adequate supply of fresh air in any room where there is an open fire or gas appliance.
If you smell gas
- Turn off the gas at the meter
- Open doors and windows
- Call the gas emergency service on 0800 111 999
- Don’t turn electric switches on or off.
- Don’t use naked flames
- Don’t smoke
Try to remove candles, oil burners etc. and replace with simple push lights or torches.
- Battery-operated push lights can be bought from most big supermarkets and hardware shops and can be stuck onto most surfaces.
If candles are used:
- Ensure they are placed in a suitable container that will prevent the candle from falling over.
- Always use a container wider than the candle so that any wax spillage will be contained.
- If large candles are used ensure any delicate wax shell that forms around the top of the candle is regularly trimmed to about half a centimetre above the wick.
- This will eliminate the risk of the shell collapsing and flowing onto anything flammable nearby.
- Make sure candles are kept away from curtains, draughts, and open windows, and not on bookshelves etc.
- They should be used on a firm, even surface well away from anything flammable.
- They should not be left unattended and should always be extinguished before leaving the house or going to bed.
Try to avoid smoking if possible.
- However, if you do ensure there are plenty of ashtrays around. Preferably large, heavy ones with a little water in the bottom.
- Kent Fire and Rescue Service – Safe and Well visit can help with devices to support people who smoke – call 0800 923 7000 to book a visit.
- If you smoke and use an incontinence pad, you have a greater fire risk as these pads can be highly flammable.
- Consider obtaining a small fire resistant blanket to place over the lap when smoking.
Paraffin-based emollient creams, lotions and gels may be used to help manage dry skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis. They can be very flammable, so are a fire safety concern, especially when used by people who spend extended periods in a bed or armchair due to illness or impaired mobility. It’s important to understand the fire risk associated with this product, and how to reduce any risk:
- Anyone using emollients regularly should keep well away from fire, naked flames. A build-up of residue on bedding, clothing and dressings can increase flammability.
- Wash fabrics daily at the highest temperature recommended by the manufacturer with plenty of detergent, as emollients soak into fabric.
Smoking in bed
- This carries the highest risk – it is very easy to fall asleep and drop the cigarette.
- Consider placing a fire resistant blanket on top of the bed and some fireproof carpet or tiles around the bed to reduce the risk of accidental fire.
- Always extinguish cigarettes and other smoking materials properly.
Detectors and alarms
Make sure you have enough smoke alarms in your home
- There are specialist alarms available if you have a hearing impairment, which includes a bright flashing strobe light by the bedside and a vibrating pad under the pillow to alert you to danger at night if you’re wearing your hearing aids.
- Ensure there are adequate carbon monoxide detectors throughout the home if there are gas appliances, open fires or a wood burning stove.
Consider installing a telecare system
- This is a smoke alarm provided by a telecare provider, which is linked through a lifeline service.
- It means that when the alarm sounds due to fire or smoke, the signal goes straight through to the telecare provider, who will then alert the emergency services.
- This helps to reduce the risk for you if you’re unable to react to an alarm.
- Other types of alarm can also be run through this system, such as carbon monoxide.
- As part of our Safe and Well visit, we can also help with a falls detector, which will alert a response centre, to send help quickly.
Smoke alarm guidance
- A smoke alarm should be fitted on every level of your home, ideally on the ceiling of a hallway or landing
- Test your smoke alarm weekly
Have an escape plan in the event of a fire
There are usually two options for escape in the event of a fire:
Plan A – Getting out via the main exit
- The best way out in the event of a fire would be the main exit.
- Always ensure keys are close by to enable a quick exit.
- Keep all exits clear of obstructions.
- There should always be a clear route to all doors and windows.
- If the way is clear of smoke and fire, get out of the house, shut the door behind you and get to a neighbour’s house in order to raise the alarm by calling 999.
Plan B – Making yourself safe in a room
- If it is not possible to get out of the house, either because of poor mobility or because smoke or fire is preventing it, then the next best thing is to make yourself safe in a room.
- For example, if the fire is at night then it would probably be best to stay in the bedroom.
- Shut the door and place something at the bottom of the door such as a dressing gown or a pillow to stop as much smoke as possible from entering the room.
- Is there a telephone in the bedroom? If there is a telephone in the room, there is a greater chance of being able to call for help.
- Dial 999 and ask for the fire service.
- Try to give as much information as to where in the house you are so that the fire crew can find you quickly.
- Press your telecare system button if applicable.
- Open the windows if it’s safe to do so
- Shout to attract attention from neighbours and passers-by.
- Await rescue from the fire service.
- If smoke is starting to enter the room then try to get down on the floor.
- The air will be clearer down on the floor, as smoke rises to the highest point and works its way down.
General safety tips in the event of a fire
Do not investigate
- For example, if the smoke alarm is sounding, do not go around the house to see where the fire is.
- If you open a closed door and there is a fire in that room then you are allowing oxygen to enter the room, which will fuel the fire.
Never attempt to tackle a fire
- No matter how small it may seem at the time. A fire can get out of control very easily, but more importantly, toxic smoke builds up very quickly and just a few seconds exposure to this smoke or fumes can render a person unconscious.
Get down low
- Try to get on the floor if there is a lot of smoke in the room/house.
- The air will be clearer down on the floor, as smoke rises to the highest point and works its way down.
- GET OUT, STAY OUT and CALL 999
Night time routine
Shut doors at night
- Particularly kitchen and sitting room doors and any other rooms which contain electrical equipment.
- Make sure to check that the fire guard is in place – if you have an open fire.
- Switch off as much electrical equipment as possible before going to bed.
- Ensure windows and doors are secured
- Ensuring that keys are readily available in case of an emergency.
- Consider putting hooks up in appropriate places.
- It is essential that if windows are kept locked, then there must be a key in all rooms and that all people either living in or visiting the home know where the keys are.
For the smokers
- Make sure all smoking materials and candles are fully extinguished. If necessary, take them to the kitchen and run them under a little cold water.
- Empty ashtrays into an appropriate fire-proof bin outside the building before going to bed.
Kitchen - White goods safety
- Avoid putting the washing machine, tumble dryer or dishwasher on before going to bed.
- Electrical faults can develop and result in fires.
- You can check if any of your electrical appliances have been recalled since 2007 by visiting www.whitegoodsafety.com
Kent Fire and Rescue Service
- For further advice and to book a FREE Safe and Well Visit 0800 923 7000
- In an emergency always call 999
For health services
Gas and electricity supply
UK Power Networks
Gas emergency service
Call freephone 0800 111 999