Fire Safety Information

House fires claim the lives of over 200 people each year in the UK, with the majority of fatalities occurring between 10pm and 6am, when people are asleep.

When you are asleep your sense of smell decreases to almost non-existent.

The facts about fire

  • In the UK annually there are approximately 200 fire-related deaths. The majority of these occur within the home between 10pm and 6am when people are asleep.
  • There are about 37,000 house fires a year in the UK, the majority of which are caused by electrical equipment misuse, mainly cooking appliances.
  • In the year to Sept 2018, 38% of battery operated smoke alarms did not sound during a fire. The biggest cause? Missing, flat or disconnected batteries.
  • You only have minutes to escape from a house fire - every second counts!
  • Smoke alarms give you advance warning of fire, which results in giving you more time to react. Having a working smoke alarm has been associated with lower casualty rates and reduced damage to your home.
  • With a working smoke alarm you are 4 times more likely to survive.

What you need to know about Fire. Smoke is dark, fast, toxic and hot. Smoke is the biggest killer in domestic fires

Smoke is dark

Smoke generated by house fires is thick, dense and dark, making it difficult to find your way to safety. You can't see your own hand at the end of your own arm during a fire! Rubber, plastic, wood upholstery, foam-filling and fabric are the kinds of household materials that fuel house fires.

Smoke is fast

Your home can be consumed by flames in less than four minutes. Small fires can get out of control in less than 30 seconds - time is not on your side. Make sure that every member of the family knows that speed is of the essence in escaping a house fire. Closing doors can delay the spread of a fire - but don't investigate, just get out fast. Every household should have a practiced escape plan.


Heat from a fire can kill you without being burnt by the flames. The difference between the temperature at head height and floor level can mean the difference between life and death. Temperatures five feet from the floor can be over 300 °C whilst at floor level temperatures may only be 32 °C.

Smoke Alarms Saves lives

There is evidence that there is a drop in the number of fatalities from domestic fires with an increase in smoke alarm ownership. Affordable, simple to install, and easy to maintain, smoke alarms give a loud signal when activated by a concentration of smoke particles. Having a fully maintained smoke alarm gives you vital early warning.

Which type of smoke alarm?

There are two different technologies used in domestic smoke alarms: Ionisation and Photoelectric (also know as optical). Both are effective at detecting smoke, yet each has a unique detecting system.

Ionisation Alarms

The mechanism is particularly effective against fast-flaming fires, which are often caused by oil, fat or petrol. It can detect smoke particles invisible to the naked eye.

Optical Alarms

These detectors are triggered when the small beam of light in the alarm chamber is reflected by smoke particles. They react especially fast to large particle smoke, often resulting from the slow, smouldering combustion of bedding, sofas, paper and wood.

For the earliest possible warning possible install both technologies. It is important that you choose a product which carries a British Standard or equivalent approval symbol. This will assure you that the product has passed many stringent tests and will offer quality protection.

How many should I own?

One is not enough. For minimum protection, smoke alarms should be installed on every level of your house - basement, first floor, second floor, and the loft (if it is furnished) and especially near the sleeping areas.

First Alert offers 'area-of-use' packaging that coordinates each product to a specific room. In this way, you can purchase smoke alarms and other fire safety equipment that have specialised features for the hallway, living areas, bedrooms or other specific locations.

Having working smoke alarms in the proper locations throughout the home greatly improves the chances of surviving a fire. See our installation planner to gain the maximum protection for you and your household.

What else do I need to be fully protected?

Smoke alarms provide your first line of defence. The following fire safety products can offer additional protection:

  • Fire extinguishers are excellent for putting out small fires before they become large fires.
  • Fire Blankets are the best way to fight chip pans and cooker top fires (the most common cause of domestic fires).
  • An Escape Ladder is the only solution if a fire can't be put out and your usual escape routes are unsafe. They provide a safer escape from upstairs rooms.

First Alert: a world leader in Home Safety

First Alert has been an innovative pioneer within the home safety sector for nearly forty years. We were the first in the world to introduce the smoke alarm, the Carbon Monoxide (CO) alarm, and the combined CO and smoke alarm.

All First Alert smoke alarms conform to the BSI Kitemark and offer a ten year guarantee. Today, First Alert market a complete range of home safety products which include:-

  • Smoke Alarms
  • Carbon Monoxide Alarms
  • Fire Extinguishers
  • Fire Blankets
  • Escape Ladder

We aim to make your home a safer place.

The Ten Commandments of Fire Safety

Most house fires are preventable. There is often a simple solution to make sure tragedy doesn't happen in your home.

  • Teach your household about the danger of fires and practice your fire escape plan.
  • Install at least one smoke alarm on every floor of your property.
  • Don't leave candles unattended and keep them away from flammable materials.
  • Don't leave appliances on standby as they are a source of fire.
  • Unplug all electrical appliances before going to bed and keep them correctly maintained.
  • Extinguish all cigarettes carefully in ashtrays and never smoke in bed.
  • Be aware of fire risks in the kitchen. The majority of household fires are caused by cooking. Never leave chip pans unattended.
  • Never leave clothes or any other materials near a heater or bed side light.
  • Always ensure that your smoke alarms are kept dust free. Test the alarm once a week and undertake regular maintenance.
  • In the event of a fire, get out of the house, shut all the doors and call the fire and rescue service on 999.


Reviewed: 30/04/2019 (doc:147 V2.0). Our articles are reviewed regularly. However, any changes made to standards or legislation following the review date will not have been considered. Please note that we provide abridged, easy-to-understand guidance. To make detailed decisions about your fire safety provisions, you might require further advice or need to consult the full standards and legislation.