Preventing house fires

by Adrian Waters

Every year fires injures over 11,000 people in their homes. Many of these injuries are preventable if proper precautions had been taken. Take a look at the best ways to protect yourself and your family from this potentially preventable danger.

Kitchen safety

Over 50% of all fires in the home start in the kitchen, many as a result of chip pan fires. There are many other fire hazards in the kitchen that you should consider such as such as cookers, microwaves and other sources of intense heat.

  • Chip and hot oil pans - only ever fill 1/3 full with oil, and before placing chips in a pan dry them off.
  • Cookers:
    • Never leave pans unattended
    • Ensure the correct heat source is switched on
    • Don't leave pan handles sticking out from the cooker
    • Keep kitchen roll away from the cooker
    • Keep your cooker clean and fee from fat and grease
  • Matches and lighters - keep out of children's reach and away from heat sources.
  • Toasters- keep away from curtains and clean out regularly.
  • Don't dry clothes in the microwave, or place metal, reflective or foil containers in a microwave


Many fires occur because of poorly maintained, old or worn electrical cables or flexes. It is important to review your electric wiring to ensure that all is well.

  • If your wiring is more than 10 years old then it should be checked for safety by a qualified electrician.
  • Have your wiring checked every 5 years. Over a period of time you may well add more appliances so it is important to check your wiring is capable of carrying the load.
  • When you buy electrical appliances, look for the BEAB seal of approval.
  • Avoid using adaptors and never plug one adaptor into another.
  • If you fit a plug yourself, make sure you wire it properly and always fit the right size fuse.
  • Use short, undamaged flexes. Never join two pieces of flex together.
  • Check plugs and flexes regularly. Look out for damage and loose connections and get any faults put right at once.
  • If you have heaters, lights or other appliances that are controlled by a time switch, make sure they are always kept clear of curtains and furnishings.
  • Don't ever place a plant pot or anything wet or damp on top of an electrical appliance.


The number of fires cause by candles is on the increase.

The majority of candle fires occur because the candles are placed too close to flammable objects like curtains or Christmas trees. Others occur because of careless handling, such as carrying a candle from one room to another and then dropping it.

Even if you only use candles for special occasions you are still at risk and should take special care.

  • Always place candles well away from curtains, furniture and drapes and always out of draughts
  • Place them on a sturdy, heat-resistant surface - not over carpets, or other flammable surfaces
  • Keep candles out of the reach of children and pets
  • Never leave a burning candle unattended
  • Keep candles away from hair and clothing
  • Always place candles upright in suitable holders, which cannot easily fall over
  • Take care not to ignite floral rings or other dinner table candle decorations
  • Never touch or move a burning candle. Extinguish them first
  • Don't use outdoor candles inside a house
  • Always make sure that candles are properly extinguished, especially before going to bed
  • Extinguish candles by snuffing them out, or blowing them out - not by using water

Gas information

Make sure you have your gas appliances serviced at least once a year by a CORGI registered engineer

  • Do not use any gas appliances that you think are not working properly.
  • Make sure that ventilation bricks or grilles or outside flues are never covered or blocked.
  • Make sure you have your gas appliances serviced at least once a year by a CORGI registered engineer.
  • If you suspect a gas leak, call the emergency line immediately.

Smoke alarms

Every year the fire brigade is called out to over 600,000 fires which result in over 800 deaths and over 17,000 injuries. 60,000 of these fires are in the home, killing nearly 500 people and injuring over 11,000. Many of these deaths and injuries could be prevented if people had early warning and were able to get out in time.

  • Always buy an alarm which has the British Standard Kite mark on it, which is BS 5446, Part One
  • Many detectors are operated by a 9-volt battery, available in most supermarkets and DIY shops. Some will work for ten years without a battery change - speak to retailers for advice.
  • Others are 'hard wired' to your electricity circuit, so you don't have to worry about any batteries. Electricians can easily fit these for you, if you are unsure how to.
  • Fit one on each floor of your home, at least 30 centimetres (12 inches) away from any wall or light fitting. If you have only one alarm, fit it in a place where it can be heard throughout your home - particularly when you are asleep.
  • Don't fit them too close to a kitchen or bathroom, where steam can keep setting them off by accident.
  • Check the battery once a month by pressing the red 'Test' button either by hand or with the end of a broom handle and change it once a year. It's a good idea to choose a memorable date on which to change all the batteries. A birthday for example.
  • Don't be tempted to take batteries out of detectors at Christmas or birthdays to power children's toys!
  • Gently run the nozzle of a vacuum cleaner or duster over the 'grill' of the smoke detector once or twice a year, to help keep it free from dust and grime.

Sometimes no matter how well prepared you are, fires will be unpreventable. So when the worst happens ensure that you're not left to front the bill entirely by yourself. With the average home insurance claim being at £52,000 can you really afford to be uninsured?

Insure My House has been providing insurance since 1993, we're experts in home insurance and allow you to compare over 50 products so you can find the one that suits you best. Get a quote now.

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