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Caring for smokers.

If you support a vulnerable person who smokes, here's how to make them as safe as possible from a fire safety perspective. 

Quitting, vaping and being a safer smoker

Our top fire prevention suggestion? Smoking cessation.

The best way to prevent smoking-related fires is to stop smoking. It has been the top factor in fatal fires for many years. So if you're caring for someone who smokes start by encouraging them to quit. You could save their life in more ways than one. Find help and advice through the NHS. 

NHS Smokefree

Vaping is better than smoking 

If the person you care for isn't ready to stop, reducing risks is the next best thing – and e-cigarettes are much safer. A lit cigarette dropped on a bed or a chair can quickly cause a fatal fire. A vape? No problem. If they switch to e-cigs, make sure they buy a good quality device, and learn to charge it safely

Mark Hazelton, Group Manager of Community Fire Safety, says London Fire Brigade want people to stop smoking. He explains the risks in this short video.

Be vigilant to save lives

Signs it's time to act 

If you see any of the below in the home of the person you care for you should take immediate action:

High-risk smoking

  1. Does the person smoke anywhere they may fall asleep?
  2. Does the person smoke near any oxygen-based equipment?
  3. Have they dropped cigarettes on floors, furniture or clothing?
  4. Have you noticed scorch marks on the floor, furniture or clothing?
  5. Are their ashtrays overflowing? 
  6. Are their ashtrays within easy reach?

Smoke alarms

  1. Do they have enough smoke alarms fitted?
  2. Do they only have a smoke alarm fitted in the hallway – there should be an alarm in every room where a fire could start?
  3. Does their smoke alarm actually work – be sure to check regularly?
  4. If the person you care for has Telecare fitted, is it linked to smoke alarms?

Other factors

  1. Response – could they respond to a fire or a smoke alarm without help?
  2. Mobility – could the person escape from a fire without help?
  3. Does the person use paraffin based products like emollient creams or use an airflow mattress?
  4. How do they light their cigarettes – lighters are safer than matches, as a dropped match can start a fire?
  5. Do they smoke alone? Encourage them to only light up if there is someone around to make sure they are safe. 

Time to act

Fire safety advice when caring for smokers

As a carer, we understand that you have a lot of responsibilities. But by taking action, you can save a life or prevent serious injury.

10 small steps to safer smoking 

  1. Talk to the person about a home fire safety visit.
  2. Point out the risks to the person as they may not be aware of the danger.
  3. Point out that it's never too late to quit – and that vaping is safer than smoking. 
  4. Encourage them to only smoke if there's someone at home with them.
  5. Always provide proper ashtrays and empty them regularly.
  6. Make sure ashtrays are within easy reach. 
  7. Don’t let the person smoke in bed or where they sleep.
  8. Never smoke when using oxygen.
  9. If they need emollient creams, talk to their GP or pharmacist about the potential of using a non-flammable alternative,  and putting in control measures such as ensuring bedding is washed according to the guidance.
  10. Consider the use of fire retardant bedding and nightwear.

We can talk to the person you care for about all of this in a home fire safety visit – we visit at home for free, and provide expert, personalised advice. Visits can be arranged at any time (24/7), and we even fit free smoke alarms if the person you care for needs them. 

Book a home fire safety visit

Talk to the person you care for and get their consent, then organise a potentially life-saving chat about fire safety.

Book a visit now

Extra information for support workers and social workers

If you are a support worker providing care there are some extra steps you need 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. Communicate with the person’s family or other supporting agencies to consider how Telecare can help to keep vulnerable people safer.

  4. Please consider their needs and make sure they know and understand the escape plan for where they live.

  5. 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 – there's a good free online course available here. 

e-Learning with Telecare Services Association

 

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.

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

Useful downloads

Person Centred Fire Fisk Assessment

Download PDF (53kb)

Fire safety at home booklet

Download PDF (3,682kb)

Means of escape for disabled people leaflet

Download PDF (917kb)