Keeping safe at home

7. Fire risk, cooking and kitchens

Fire protection

Fitting smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors can reduce the risk of fire in the home. Arrange a visit with the local fire and rescue service. They will come and visit you, free of charge, and can offer advice on fire safety. Some services will also fit free smoke detectors where required. See ‘Other useful organisations’ for more information. Also consider the following when thinking about fire safety in the home.

  • Ensure there are enough ashtrays around the house if you smoke.
  • Never smoke in bed.
  • Try to have, or buy, furniture that is fire resistant.
  • Be extra careful when you’re in the kitchen, especially when cooking with oil or fat.
  • Never leave lit candles unattended.
  • If there is a fire:
    • Don’t try to put it out.
    • Leave the house straight away.
    • Call 999 from a neighbour’s phone, mobile phone outside or from a phone box.
    • Don’t go back in, not even for pets.

Smoke alarms

  • Smoke alarms give early warning of a fire, by detecting smoke and sounding an alarm. They are not needed in every room and are best fitted in hallways and at the top of stairs. Smoke alarms should not be in the kitchen and bathroom as heat and vapour from cooking and bathing can set them off unnecessarily. Do not fit too many alarms – a lot of noise can be confusing and disorientating. This could make it harder to get away from a fire.
  • Smoke alarms are run by batteries or by mains electricity. You should test the batteries in your alarms once a week by pressing the button until the alarm sounds. You should replace smoke alarms every ten years.

Cooking

  • It is important to check that your cooker is safe. For electric cookers, ask a qualified electrician to check it. For gas cookers, arrange a visit with a Gas Safe registered engineer.
  • If you have memory problems, you may worry that you will forget to turn off the oven or hob. ‘Shut off’ devices are available to stop the gas supply if you forget to turn off the cooker.
  • You can also have a special gas tap fitted that friends and family can turn off when they leave your home, known as a 'lockable cooker valve'. This does mean that you won’t be able to cook unless someone is with you, so you will lose some independence. This can be a difficult decision, but it might keep you safe. Discuss it with family and friends before going ahead. Your gas distributor will fit one for free if you request it - to find out who to cantact see 'Other useful organisations'.

You might consider using a microwave instead of an oven. It can make cooking easier and can also be used to reheat food.

Kitchen

  • Try to plan your kitchen so that things you use often are within easy reach. Also try to do the same for heavy things, such as flour and sugar or heavy equipment.
  • Where possible, avoid climbing on chairs to reach cupboards. If you do need to reach high cabinets, use a small stepladder.
  • Throw away food that has gone off or out of date. You could put a note on the fridge door as a reminder.
  • If you have problems cutting food, try putting a non-slip mat under dishes or boards. This stops them from moving while preparing meals.
  • You can buy knives with specially shaped handles, which are easier to control. Keep knives sharp and in good condition. Make sure you have a can opener that is easy to use.
  • An electric kettle is better than a stove-top kettle as it automatically switches off once it has boiled. Don’t overfill the kettle, and only boil as much water as you need.
  • Take extra care with boiling water, and use mugs and cups that have a wide base.
  • Label cupboards and objects with pictures and words so that they can be identified.
  • Place clear instructions that can easily be followed somewhere visible, such as on the fridge.