Essex County Fire and Rescue Service

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Home Safety Advice for Carers

In the UK, 1 in 8 adults (around 6.5 million people) are carers who are looking after family or friends in need of care.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, an additional 4.5 million people are caring for older, disabled or seriously ill relatives or friends.

Vulnerable people might not be able to respond to a fire or escape the home as quickly as others and could also be at a higher risk of fire due to the equipment they use.

We want to make sure all Essex residents are as safe as possible and will fit free smoke alarms in any home that doesn’t have working smoke alarms on every level of the property.

Our Home Fire Safety team can fit sensory alarms and give home fire safety advice.

To book a free home fire safety visit for someone you care for, visit www.essex-fire.gov.uk/book or call 0300 303 0088

Support for all carers in Essex can be accessed via the Essex Welfare Service at www.essexwelfareservice.org or on 0300 303 0088.

If you care for a family member or friend or are a support worker, please read our advice below:

Have working smoke alarms

Smoke alarms are proven life savers and can alert you and others to the first sign of fire. If you or someone you know doesn’t have working smoke alarms at home, we can fit them for free during a free home fire safety visit.

To book a free home fire safety visit for someone you care for, visit www.essex-fire.gov.uk/book or call 0300 303 0088

Sensory alarms and emergency SMS

Our Home Fire Safety team can fit sensory alarms and give tailored home fire safety advice.

Did you know you can also text the emergency services in an emergency instead of dialling 999?

The service is open to all mobile network operators and can be used to contact the fire and rescue service, police, ambulance and coastguard in an emergency.

To use this service you must register by sending a text containing the word ‘register’ to 999. This must be repeated if your number changes.

Find out more:www.emergencysms.net

Escape routes

If you care for someone who has a physical disability, is sensory impaired, elderly or has reduced mobility due to age or illness, talk to them about what to do in the event of a fire at home:

  • Plan an escape route and make sure everyone knows how to get out
  • Make sure exits are kept clear
  • The best route is the normal way in and out of your home
  • Plan a second route in case the first one is blocked
  • Take a few minutes to practice your escape plan
  • Review your plan if the layout of your home changes
  • Keep door and window keys where everyone can find them

What to do if there is a fire

  • Don’t tackle fires yourself. Leave it to the fire service
  • Keep calm and act quickly. Get everyone out as soon as possible
  • Don’t waste time investigating what’s happened or rescuing valuables
  • If there’s smoke, keep low where the air is clearer
  • Before you open a door, check if it’s warm.  If it is, don’t open it – fire is on the other side
  • Call 999 as soon as you’re clear of the building.  Get out, stay out, call the fire service out

What to do if your escape is blocked

  • If you can’t get out, get everyone into one room, ideally with a window and a phone
  • Put bedding around the bottom of the door to block out the smoke, then open the window and call “HELP FIRE”
  • If you’re on the ground or first floor, you may be able to escape through a window
  • Use bedding to cushion your fall and lower yourself down carefully.  Don’t jump
  • If you can’t open the window, break the glass in the bottom corner.  Make jagged edges safe with a towel or blanket

Use of health equipment

If you care for someone who uses oxygen therapy or an airflow mattress, both of which are flammable, make sure to:

  • Avoid smoking or using candles, fires or cooking anywhere near oxygen or an airflow mattress
  • Never smoke near an airflow bed or enable the person you care for to smoke in bed or while using oxygen 
  • Keep oxygen and airflow mattresses well away from gas stoves, portable heaters or open fires
  • Make sure oxygen is turned off when not in use

Emollient creams

If you care for someone who needs to use emollient creams or lotions and gels that are paraffin or petroleum based, avoid using a naked flame such as a candle in the home. 

Residue from the cream, lotion or gel could be on clothing or bedding and catch alight quickly.

Smoking

If you care for a smoker, help them to minimise the risk of fire by following our advice:

  • Make sure your all cigarettes are fully extinguished
  • Take extra care when you’re tired, taking any sort of drugs or have been drinking alcohol. It’s very easy to fall asleep while your cigarette is still burning
  • Never smoke in bed - if you need to lie down, don’t light up. You could doze off and set your bed on fire
  • Never leave lit cigarettes unattended - they can easily overbalance as they burn down
  • Use a proper, heavy ashtray that can’t tip over easily and is made of a material that won’t burn. Make sure your cigarette is fully extinguished
  • Tap your ash into an ashtray, never a wastebasket containing other rubbish – and don’t let the ash or cigarette ends build up in the ashtray
  • Use child safe matches and cigarette lighters and keep them safely out of the reach of children
  • Fit and maintain a smoke alarm - a working smoke alarm can buy you valuable time to get out, stay out and call 999

Hoarding disorder

If you care for someone living with a hoarding disorder, they are at a higher risk of fire due to the amount of possessions in their home. The chances that one of their possessions will come into contact with fire is higher and a fire can spread more rapidly if there are more possessions in the home.

To help minimise the risk of fire:

  • Book a free home fire safety visit to discuss fire risks and ways to minimise them 
  • Ensure there are working smoke alarms to alert the household to a fire
  • Avoid using candles or naked flames in the home
  • Keep the hob clear
  • Avoid smoking in the home

Home Safety Checklist for Carers

We've created a simple checklist that can be used by anyone who has contact with vulnerable residents - family members, informal or paid carers, housing providers, Adult Social Care, Health or Care Services - to help establish what support is necessary.

The checklist, which is available on the right hand side of this page, also includes information on what to do next, depending on both the answers and your relationship with the person involved.

A brief description of our Safe and Well visits and how they can benefit those at risk is also included. For more information, please speak to our Home Safety team on 0300 303 0088 or head to essex-fire.gov.uk/book

Carers e-learning

An e-learning module on fire safety in the home for carers has been prepared here: tsa-voice.org.uk/fire-safety-in-the-home

The module, which has been produced with the help of London Fire Brigade, aims to raise awareness, and increase knowledge of how to recognise what may present a fire risk, what you as an individual can do to minimise that risk, and possible solutions.

Many fire incidents which involve vulnerable people have similar characteristics and have involved some form of care provision for the individual, some have incorporated the use of fire detection and/or monitoring equipment (Telecare) as part of their care package.

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