What to do if a fire breaks out

Get out, stay out, call 999

photo of a fire in a sitting room

No one wants to suffer a fire in their home. But the reality is, fire is a great risk to us all. It only takes an unguarded or careless moment for a fire to occur and in a matter of minutes, your home can be filled with flames and smoke - both of which can be killers.  

As well as following safety advice to minimise the risk of a fire happening in your home, it is important you and everyone in your home, knows what to do if a fire was to break out. 

If you find your home on fire while you are inside it, you may only have a short amount of time to get out to safety. Use your time wisely and try not to panic. The following advice will help you and everyone in your home get out safely:

  • A correctly installed and working smoke alarm can give you and your family those valuable extra few minutes to make your escape as it will give you an early warning to a fire.  Fit a smoke alarm that has the Kite mark or British Standard Number 5446.  Test the smoke alarm at least once a month by pressing the test button and know the life expectancy of the battery.  Mark the calendar to remind you when to replace the battery. A FREE Home Fire Safety Check may be available to you. Requests are prioritised according to individual risk.
  • It will help if you have planned and practised your fire escape route in advance, rather than waiting until there is a fire.
  • Get everyone out as quickly as possible and try not to panic.
  • Don't try to pick up valuables or possessions.
  • Leave pets behind. Firefighters will rescue them when they arrive.
  • If possible, close the door of the room where the fire is and close all doors behind you as you leave.  This will help delay the spread of fire and smoke.
  • Before opening a closed door, use the back of your hand to touch it.  Don't open it if it feels warm - the fire will be on the other side.
  • Smoke rises so stay low where it is easier to breathe.
  • Telephone 999 and ask for the fire Service from a mobile phone, a neighbour's house or a telephone box.  Clearly state the address of the fire. The operator will ask questions to find out as much information from you as possible so the firefighters can be briefed while they are on their way and know what to expect. 
  • Never go back into the house until a fire officer has told you it is safe to do so.


If you are cut off from your escape route by the fire:

  • If you are unable to use the door because of flames or smoke, close the door and use towels or bedding to block any gaps at the bottom of the door.  This will help to prevent smoke and any fumes from spreading into the room. This should hold back the fire and smoke long enough for the fire service to arrive and rescue you. 
  • Make your way to the window. If the room becomes smoky, crawl along the floor where it will be easier to breathe because smoke rises.
  • Open the window and attract the attention of others who can alert the fire service.
  • If you are able to, stay by the window so firefighters can see you as soon as they arrive and can rescue you. 
  • If you are in immediate danger and your room is not above the first floor, drop cushions or bedding to the ground to break your fall from the window.  If you can, get out feet first and lower yourself to the full length of your arms before dropping.

Learn more about fire safety in your home

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