Safety in the home
Everyone should feel safe in their own home. Here are some steps you can take to make sure that your home is as safe as possible:
- ensure you have a working smoke alarm in your home
- plan escape routes, keep exits clear and know where your door and window keys are kept should you need them in an emergency
- don't overload electrical sockets - use one plugin one socket and use an extension lead for additional appliances
- switch off appliances at the wall when not in use
- keep matches and lighters out of children's reach
- when using candles put them on a heat-proof holder or dish and keep them away from flammable items, such as wallpaper, curtains etc - never put candles on top of TVs
- never leave cooking unattended even just to answer the phone
- don't smoke in bed
- keep chimneys and flues clean and well maintained - ensure your chimney is swept regularly
- if you have an open fire, make sure embers are under control, is put out properly and always use a fireguard
Electrical appliances around the home can cause accidents through electric shock and around half of all house fires in the UK are caused by electrical equipment. It's important that you understand the risks and get your equipment checked.
How to avoid electrical fires:
- make sure an electrical appliance has a British or European safety mark when you buy it
- keep electrical leads and appliances away from water
- remember - one plug per socket - if you need more plugs than there are sockets, use a bar-type fuse adaptor
- unplug appliances at night or when you're not using them to reduce the risk of fire - unless they are designed to be left on all the time (for example, a fridge or freezer)
- keep electrical appliances clean and in good working order
Electrical Safety First has more advice on electrical safety (including a useful guide you can download).
If you have a wood or coal burning fire, or gas or oil burning appliances such as a boiler, heater or cooker, you should have a carbon monoxide alarm.
Carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas produced when appliances do not burn properly. Even small amounts of carbon monoxide can cause serious health problems or even kill.
Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are similar to a cold or flu and can include:
- loss of consciousness
A carbon monoxide detector will flash and sound an audible alarm if it detects carbon monoxide. You should install one in every room where there is a gas appliance, and the batteries usually last around five years. Carbon monoxide detectors are similar in design to smoke alarms and can be purchased from as little as £15 at many major retail outlets including DIY stores and supermarkets. When you buy a carbon monoxide detector, make sure it has the Kitemark and European Standard number BS EN 50291.
If you think carbon monoxide is present, call the gas emergency number 0800 111 999.
A Gas Safe registered engineer should check your gas appliances every year.
You may be able to receive a free gas safety check from your supplier if you receive means tested benefits and there is anyone in your household who:
- has a disability
- has a chronic illness
- is of pensionable age
- is blind or partially sighted
- is deaf or hard of hearing
- has another type of special need
If you live in rented accommodation, your landlord will need to arrange an annual gas safety check.
The best way to protect your home and family from fire is with a working smoke alarm. You should make sure that your home has at least one smoke alarm on each floor.
If you have hearing loss:
- you can get a smoke alarm that uses a strobe light and vibrating pads
- in the event of a fire, if it is difficult for you to call 999 yourself, ask a neighbour to do it for you
- if you have specialist equipment, such as a textphone or minicom, you can contact the emergency services on 18000
If you have sight problems:
- put a coloured sticker on your smoke alarm if you have trouble seeing to test it, or ask your local fire and rescue service if they can provide a coloured cover
- consider fitting bump-ons (also known as plastic blisters) to appliances as a way of making sure they are switched off properly
- unplug and then check electrical leads regularly by touch - if they are frayed or faulty don't use the appliance
- you may also want to consider placing a tactile indicator along your escape route to make it easier to find the exit
If you have mobility problems:
- if it is difficult to test your alarms ask someone to do it for you
- remote controlled or easy access alarms are available from electrical retailers
- telecare equipment will allow you to alert someone in the event of an emergency
- make sure you have easy access to any mobility aids you may need, such as a walking stick
Fire safety advice is available from the Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service. They also have advice on choosing, fitting and testing smoke alarms. They also provide a free Safe and Well home visit.
Preventing trips and falls
Avoiding hazards in the home
There are ways to prevent trips and falls in the home including:
- ensure you have good lighting, particularly on the stairs and use high-wattage light bulbs
- make trailing cables safe using cable ties
- make sure mats and rugs are non-slip - remove or repair frayed carpet
- don't walk on slippery floors in socks or tights
- wear well-fitting shoes or slippers
- clear away clutter especially on stairs and by doorways
- organise your home so that climbing, stretching and bending are kept to a minimum, and to avoid bumping into things
- get help to do things that you're unable to do safely on your own
- mop up spillages immediately
- buy your pet a bright collar and bell - then you will know if they are around your legs/feet
- always use a non-slip mat in the bath or shower
- fit grab rails in the bathroom
- sit in a chair of the right height to prevent falls when rising
Hoarding is a behaviour where people accumulate food, clothing or other household items and struggle to discard items. Over time, the inability to throw things away can overrun the pace of collecting. The ongoing build-up of collected items can lead to unsafe and unhealthy living spaces. Hoarding can cause serious sanitary issues that pose a variety of health risks including poor air quality, possible pest infestations and mould problems.
Always check the company you ask to take household items away has a waste licence. All businesses and traders who transport waste are legally required to have a waste carrier’s licence. You can check if a waste carrier is registered by looking on the Environment Agency’s public register or by calling 03708 506 506. Call the Environment Agency hotline on 0800 80 70 60. Report your concerns anonymously to Crimestoppers online.
Technology might be an ideal solution for you if you're worried about having an accident and not being able to call for help.
Our occupational therapists can carry out an assessment. This will identify the likely risks of falling, how to reduce this, and equipment that can help.
The Dorset Accessible Homes Service can give advice and support as well as providing practical help with home adaptations. This service is available if you live in Dorset (outside of Bournemouth, Christchurch or Poole) and are disabled, or over 50.
We have advice on financial care planning.
Our top ten things to think about will help you to plan your future care, even if you don't need support at the moment.
Safe and Well visits – A Safe & Well visit, which is a completely free service offered by Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service to help keep our communities safe in their homes. The Safe & Well discussion will cover topics such as:
- using electricity safely
- cooking safely
- making an escape plan
- what to do if there is a fire
- keeping children safe
- good practice – nighttime routine and other points relevant to you
- identifying and discussing any further support you may need if necessary
To request a free Safe & Well telephone appointment, please call 0800 038 2323 or alternatively you can follow the instructions on their website.