What to do in the event of a fire
If there’s a fire, you need to act quickly. Make sure you are prepared and that everyone in your house knows exactly what to do.
Alert everyone – make sure everyone in the house knows about the fire – shout and get everyone together. Get everyone out – you should have an escape route planned that everyone in your house is familiar with. If you don’t have one already, see the Escape page for information on how to make an escape plan for your home. As you escape, remember:
- don’t delay to save valuables or look for pets
- don’t investigate the fire
- crawl on the floor if there’s smoke – the air is cleaner near the floor
- on the floor, put your nose as low as possible – remember, smoke is toxic and can kill you
- as you go out, only open the doors you need to and close any open doors you can to slow the spread of the fire
- feel doors with the back of your hand before you open them, if they’re warm, don’t open them – the fire is on the other side
- if you’re escaping with others, stay together if you can
What to do if your clothes catch fire
- Don’t run around – you will fan the flames and make them burn faster
- Lying down makes it harder for the fire to spread and reduces the effect of flames on your face and head – flames burn upwards
- Smother the flames – cover the flames with heavy material, like a coat or blanket; this blocks the fire’s supply of oxygen
- Roll around – rolling smothers the flames
What to do when you can’t get out by your escape route
If your escape route is blocked:
- if you’re on the ground floor, go out of a window – throw bedding or cushions onto the ground outside to break your fall
- if you can’t open the window, use a heavy object to break it – cover any jagged edges with clothing, a towel or a blanket
- lower children as far as possible before letting them drop – get an adult to break their fall if you can
- lower yourself by your arms from the window ledge before dropping
- If you can’t get out, get everyone into one room:
- choose a room with a window, if you can
- put cushions, towels or bedding at the bottom of the door to block smoke
- open the window and call for help
- think about which room might be best for this – you need a window that can be opened and, if possible, a phone for calling 999
Once you’re out and safe, try and find a phone to call the emergency services – 999 calls are free. When you speak to the operator:
- give your whole address, including the town
- tell them what is on fire, e.g. ‘a two-storey house’
- explain if anyone is trapped and what room they’re in – give as much information as you can so they can help you
Don’t go back in
You should find somewhere safe to wait near the building. If there is someone still inside wait for the Fire and Rescue Service to arrive; you can tell them about the person and they will be able to find them quicker than you. If you go back into the building, you will slow down the firefighters efforts to rescue anyone else missing – and put your own life in danger.
What to do if you live in a high-rise flat
If you live in a block of flats, you should consider that a fire could start directly outside your flat, or in the stairwell. See ‘Planning a safe escape’ for more information on planning an escape – it includes specific guidance for plans for high-rises. If a fire starts in your flat or the stairwell and you can’t get out:
- get everyone into a room with a window – put cushions, bedding, or clothes around the bottom of the door to block smoke
- open the window – if you feel in serious danger, wave a sheet out of the window so the firefighters know you’re there
- if the fire is directly outside your flat, seal your front door with tape, bedding or clothes, close any ventilators and phone 999
- if your front door becomes hot, wet it down
Emergency SMS service for the deaf or speech-impaired
Emergency SMS (eSMS) has been available in the UK since 2009. In 2011 eSMS became mandatory, with Ofcom requiring all mobile operators to offer it. To use the service, the deaf or speech-impaired person sends one or more text messages to 999 (or 112). Messages are routed through the Text Relay call centre and presented to the Emergency Services in the same way as 999/112 calls from textphones.
There is more information at www.emergencysms.co.uk.
- Deaf people can call for help from the emergency services in any UK location where the emergency has arisen (rather than only where they live or are registered for the service).
- The service is designed to be as close as possible to the service offered to hearing users of 999/112, for example, including the automated sending of location information.
- Calls can be routed directly to the emergency service requested by the caller rather than having to go via the police.
- The numbers are the same as those used for voice calls, making them easy to remember.
- The registration process is extremely simple – users text ‘register’ to 999. If necessary, someone can register in an emergency and use the service a minute or two later; although prior registration is of course preferable.
- Users can be blocked for persistent misuse, protecting the service for people in genuine need.
- The service is highly robust – calls are routed via Text Relay, which is open 24 hours a day and whose staff are experienced at handling emergency calls from deaf people.