Children die quickly in fires because they are so easily overcome by the thick, black, toxic smoke that can spread within minutes throughout the home. Families are almost three times more likely to die in fires that start in the night – if they don’t have working smoke alarms, they breathe in the poisonous smoke and never wake up.

Who is injured in fires?

  • Children from the poorest families are 38 times more likely to die in a house fire than children from the most affluent families.  
  • Families where someone smokes are at greatest risk. Cigarettes, matches and lighters are the biggest single cause of fatal house fires but smokers are less likely to own a smoke alarm than non-smokers.

How can injuries and deaths in fires be prevented?

The simplest and most effective way to prevent death and injury from house fires is to have a working smoke alarm on every level of the home. You and your family are four times as likely to die in a fire if your smoke alarm doesn’t work.It’s especially important if a fire starts at night. This is because breathing in the thick, black smoke from a fire can kill people so quickly that they never wake up.

Getting into the testing habit

With busy family lives, it can be hard to get into the habit of testing our smoke alarms. That’s why we’ve teamed up with WatchTower Giraffe.

The Giraffe is designed to make it easy to reach alarms without climbing on chairs or stools. And he comes with his own full-colour illustrated story book for children. Once they get involved, their pester power definitely encourages us grown-ups to test the smoke alarms each month!

The WatchTower Giraffe costs just £9.99 including P&P. And £1 from each Giraffe sold is donated to the Child Accident Prevention Trust, to help fund our charity’s essential work.

If you need a new smoke alarm…

If you need to replace a smoke alarm that has failed the test, or you’re following fire service advice to fit a smoke alarm on every floor of your home, look no further than our online shop.

We’ve a 10-year smoke alarm with ground breaking smoke-sensing technology. The alarm costs £21.79 including P&P, which is just 4p a week over the 10-year warranty period. And again there’s a donation to CAPT from each alarm sold.

And remember that all UK fire and rescue services provide free home fire safety checks. They fit free smoke alarms in the homes of the most vulnerable families and some offer this service to all families.

Make sure the families you work with know how to find out more. Find details of your local fires service here.

Escape plan and routines

Plan and practice how you and your family are going to escape if a fire breaks out. Having a well-rehearsed escape plan can save vital minutes, and can literally be a matter of life or death for your family. 

Teach children what they should do if a fire breaks out. They will be scared and may be tempted to hide which means it takes longer to find and rescue them.

Follow a night-time routine – switch off appliances, close doors and windows, and make sure cigarettes and candles are completely extinguished.

Clear away any clutter in the hallway before you go to bed. If a fire breaks out you don’t want to be tripping over things in the rush to escape, especially if the house is filled with thick black smoke and it’s dark.

Safety reminders to prevent fires

We were going out for dinner with friends and the babysitter had already arrived. I’d only had about 15 minutes to get ready after getting the kids down so I was really rushing. I went back into the bedroom to grab something and realised I’d left the hair straighteners on. I’d chucked them on the bed thinking I’d turned them off. There was a brown line on the cover where they had just started to burn through. Can’t bear to think what might have happened.

Chip pans are the biggest cause of house fires. Replacing your chip pan with an electric deep fat fryer means your risk of a chip pan fire is much less.

Beware of coming home from a night out worse for wear, starting to cook something to eat and nodding off – this is the cause of many fires in the home!

If you can, avoid running your washing machine or dishwasher at night in case it has an electrical fault that starts a fire while your family is asleep.

Store heated hair appliances safely. A rising number of house fires are caused by hair straighteners. 

The DAIOTM hair appliance organiser is designed to help prevent both burns and house fires from heated hair appliances. Made with high quality silicone that will sustain a temperature of 300°C, it’s the safe way to store appliances while they are heating up, during use and while they cool down. According to DAIOTM website there has been more than a 16% increase in domestic fire insurance claims directly attributable to heated hair straighteners.

Store matches and lighters out of reach of small children. Get into the routine of putting them back in the same place every time.

Make sure your cigarette is properly out and if you’re really tired, it’s best not to smoke in case you fall asleep with the cigarette in your hand.

Don’t overload electrical sockets. Electrical Safety First has a fantastic online socket calculator so you can check that you’re not overloading your sockets. For example, if you use the combination of toaster and kettle on an extension lead running from one socket, it’s dangerously overloaded.

And while we’re on the subject of toasters…

Be sensible in the kitchen. TV chef Jamie Oliver caused controversy a few years ago by suggesting you turn your toaster on its side to make a toasted sandwich. Don’t, say the London Fire Brigade after they attended a house fire caused by someone doing just that. "Toasters are not designed to be put on their side and used to grill cheese on toast," said crew manager Nick Morley.

More information

CAPT’s range of leaflets and booklets will support you in your work with parents and carers by underlining the key safety messages. The leaflets are written with different stages of child development in mind, and are a key support tool when teaching parents about child accident prevention.

Online shop
How safe is your child from burns and scalds?
Accidents and child development