Find out more about what you can do if a fire starts, if you smell smoke or you hear a smoke alarm.
Save - If a fire starts, the most important thing is for you to save yourself and any other people who are in danger. The safest way to evacuate is crawling along the floor, because poisonous smoke rises. Close all doors on the way out to prevent the fire and smoke from spreading.
Warn - Warn others nearby, so they can also move to safety.
Alert - Alert the emergency services by calling SOS Alarm on telephone number 112. Give information about what has happened as quickly as possible. Find out more about how to call SOS Alarm
Extinguish - Try to extinguish the fire. But remember not to put your own safety and health at risk. If you cannot extinguish the fire, shut it in. This slows down the progress of the fire.
Fire or smoke in stairwell
In apartment blocks, it can happen that fires are intentionally set in the stairwell and bin room. If a fire does start, it is important to act correctly.
- Never go out into a smoky stairwell.
- Stay in your apartment, call SOS Alarm on 112 and wait for help.
- If smoke comes in under the door or through the ventilation, seal it off with wet towels or tape. Apartments are normally built to resist fire for around 60 minutes and they are therefore a safe place. If you need to be evacuated, the Fire and Rescue Service will do so.
Our tips to reduce the risk of fire in stairwells and bin rooms
- Do not store flammable material such as furniture, newspapers or other rubbish in the stairwell, basement or other similar areas.
- Make sure the doors to the attic, basement and garage are always kept locked.
Most fires in the home begin on the stove. One of the most common causes of these fires is food boiling dry.
- If a fire starts in a saucepan or frying pan, move the pan off the hotplate and extinguish the fire with a pan lid or a fire blanket.
- Never pour water into the pan if fat or oil is burning. The water will vaporise and there will be a strong reaction that will spread the fire and could cause serious burns.
- If an electrical device begins to burn, first pull out the plug.
- Then try to extinguish the fire and, if possible, take the device outside.
Clothing fires are very dangerous so it is important to act quickly.
- If your own clothing catches fire, you should lie down, roll around and try to extinguish the fire that way.
- If someone else’s clothing catches fire, lay the person down and extinguish the fire with water, a blanket or a coat, for example.
- Always start at the head and work your way down.
If you smell smoke
If you smell smoke and suspect there is a fire, always call 112.
- Try to work out where the smell is coming from.
- Can you tell what is making the smell? Is it cooking, burnt electronics, light fittings... Could the smell be coming from outside?
- Do not put your own safety at risk. Raise the alarm and meet the firefighters to show them the way.
If you hear a smoke alarm
Acting quickly can save lives. If you suspect there is a fire, call 112.
- When did the smoke alarm start going off? Can you hear where the alarm is coming from?
- Try to make contact with the people in the home in question. Bang on the door.
- Can you smell smoke? Can you see or hear anything else?
- How do things look from the outside?
- If there is a name on the door, you can try to find out the telephone number and call the person.
Fire in a stove/chimney
An uncontrolled fire in a wood-burning stove or chimney can cause major damage to the building. It is important to act quickly to avoid structural damage. Raise the alarm by calling 112.
If smoke starts to leak into your home, this is often because the flue is blocked.
- Shut off the air supply so the fire goes out of its own accord.
- If possible, check the chimney to see if it is blocked by a bird’s nest or something similar.
- Call your local chimney sweep to come and check the chimney before you light another fire.
If an uncontrolled fire starts in the flue
If a lot of tar has built up in the flue, the tar can catch fire and you will have a serious chimney fire. In this case, you will hear a dull thud and if the fire continues explosions may occur and the flu could crack.
- Close the air supply so the fire does not get more oxygen.
- If you have access to chimney sweeping equipment (chain with weight), you can go up onto the roof and clear any tar from the chimney.
- Tar and flammable material may then fall out of the stove. Remember that it is very hot, collect it in a non-flammable container.
- Call your local chimney sweep to come and check that the chimney is properly clear.
- Remember never to put your own safety at risk.
The way you should act depends on the size of the fire and what is burning. As usual, the rule of thumb is Save – Warn – Alert – Extinguish.
- Try to estimate how large an area is on fire and whether there is a risk of the fire spreading.
- If possible, try to extinguish the fire yourself or with somebody else’s help. Use anything useful nearby, such as a bucket of water.