Ability to respond and escape.

Learn about factors that can affect a person's ability to respond and escape if there's a fire – and what you can do to support them.

Risks and reduced abilities

Reduced ability to respond and escape explained

There are a number of health and lifestyle behaviours that increase the likelihood of being involved in a fire.

  1. Increased risk of fire
  2. Reduced ability to react to a fire
  3. Reduced ability to escape from a fire

If these factors apply to someone you care for, it's important to make sure appropriate measures are taken so they know what to do in the event of a fire in their home, and react appropriately.

We go into more detail in the next section. There is a separate page for healthcare equipment including oxygen therapy, dynamic airflow pressure relieving mattresses and incontinence products – and there is specialist advice to support you if you care for a person who is a smoker, or someone who has  hoarding disorder

What makes a person more vulnerable to fire?

Is someone you care for at greater risk from fire?

Let's take a closer look at the of health and lifestyle factors that increase a person's vulnerability to fire risk.

An increased risk of fire

There are a number of factors that increase a person's risk of a fire starting:

Less able to react if there's a fire

These factors might mean a person might not be able to react as quickly in the event of a fire.

  • There are no working smoke alarms installed, or there isn't a smoke or heat alarm in every room where a fire might start.
  • The person has a history of alcohol dependency or drug misuse (prescribed or recreational).
  • Mental health conditions such as dementia or learning difficulties.
  • Physical health issues including sensory impairments, such as hearing or sight.
  • The property is not meant to be used for sleeping accommodation and fire safety features like fire doors and alarms haven't been fitted.

Reduced ability to escape a fire

Some people might not be able to escape a fire as quickly as other, due to factors such as:

  • Reduced mobility due to a physical disability, age-related problems or as a result of a long-term illness.
  • Escape routes are not kept clear, or are blocked – hoarding disorder may be a factor. 
  • Conditions that affect decision-making.

If you know or work directly with anyone who has any combination of the risk factors, please encourage them to arrange a free home fire safety visit. Visits can be arranged at any time (24/7), and specialist alarms can also be fitted – for example, strobe light and vibrating pad alarms for those who are deaf or hard of hearing.

If any of these signs are combined with limited mobility – for example, if the person you care for is bed bound or spends most of their time in a chair – the person is particularly at risk. It's important to make sure appropriate measures are taken so they know what to do in the event of a fire in their home, and react appropriately.

Learn more about escape plans from homes here, and from workplaces (like residential care homes) here.

Book a visit

Find out more about home fire safety visits and book one for the person you care for.

Home fire safety visits

Extra information for support workers and social workers

If you are a support worker providing care there are some extra steps to take:

  1. Complete the Person Centred Fire Risk Assessment at the bottom of this page – this will help you identify areas of risk to the person you care for.
  2. Report the risks to your line manager and ask them to discuss a referral for a free home fire safety visit with the client.
  3. Communicating with the person’s family or other supporting agencies to consider how Telecare can help to keep vulnerable people safer.
  4. Make sure that fire risk is included in the care plan for your client including things like using fire retardant bedding, appropriate management of emollient creams, and how to care for people who smoke.

It's also a good idea to get some training on how to recognise fire risks. This will help you to spot signs that may indicate the person you care for is at risk of injury from fire and what steps you can take to reduce those risks. There's a good free online course available here.

e-Learning with Telecare Services


Useful downloads

Person Centred Fire Risk Assessment

Download PDF (53kb)

Fire safety in the home booklet

Download PDF (3,662kb)

Means of escape for disabled people leaflet

Download PDF (900kb)

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