Advice for residential care homes.

If you're responsible for accommodation for older or vulnerable people, here's what you need to know about protecting them from fire. 


If you're responsible for a residential care home, there are specific areas of fire safety you need to really pay attention to. 

What causes fires in residential care homes?

  1. 41% – cooking and cookers
  2. 21% – kitchen appliances
  3. 13% – smoking-related

In residential care homes, escape planning is particularly important. Do you know how you would safely and quickly evacuate every person your team cares for?

Fatal fires involving vulnerable people

Tragically, there were many fatal fires in care homes and where vulnerable people were being cared for in their own homes by professional carers, family and friends. 

With better fire safety knowledge and emergency planning in place, these numbers could be much lower. On this page, we'll take a closer look at the risks and what you can do to reduce them, and provide advice about creating an emergency plan that will help you make sure everyone can get to safety if there is a fire.

Did you know?

Everyone in business needs to complete a Fire Risk Assessment and make an emergency plan.

Why fire safety matters so much... 

  1. You are risking vulnerable peoples' lives if you don't take care.
  2. It's the right thing to do – you are a professional carer, so you'll want to take proper care of the people you support.
  3. It's the law – covered by the Fire Safety Order and the Care Act, which is regulated by the Care Quality Commission. If you don't meet these legal obligations, you can go to prison and face an unlimited fine.


Causes and risks

How to provide appropriate care – fire risks to watch out for 

The first step to improving your fire prevention strategy is identifying where things can go wrong. In 2016/17, our firefighters attended many fires in residential care homes across London, and we've noticed some common factors in the homes that have experienced fires.

Common fire risks in care homes

  1. Smoking – smoking materials being disposed of carelessly, smoking not being controlled or monitored.
  2. Electrical equipment – we see many fires where electrical items are placed too close to flammable materials.
  3. Spread of fire – doors being wedged open giving the potential for fire spread throughout the building.

Emergency planning risks

As well as fire safety risks, we also see some common areas for concern in care homes. These include: 

  1. Plans that aren't up-to-date or appropriately personalised – vulnerable peoples' needs change over time, and plans can quickly become out of date.  
  2. Lack of practice – fire drills leading to staff who are unprepared.
  3. Inadequate staffing in an emergency – staffing levels don't always support evacuation strategy, especially at night.

Help and advice

Firefighters tips for residential care homes

When you care for others, you are responsible for helping to reduce their risk of harm, and planning how you would keep them safe in an emergency. 

  • Encourage smokers to quit or switch to e-cigarettes (vapes) – find extra advice on our caring for smokers page.
  • Don't support smoking in bedrooms.
  • If smoking is allowed, put strict control measures into place – for example, cigarettes might be looked after by staff members, so residents can only smoke with supervision. 
  • Make an emergency plan and update it regularly – add a diary reminder to check it at least once every 6 weeks.  
  • Make sure that fire safety training and fire drills to be carried out regularly.
  • Install and maintain appropriate fire detection and suppression systems (sprinklers). 
  • Learn the about the risks of specialist healthcare equipment and emollient creams – and how to use these vital aids more safely.  
  • Consider every resident's needs, and undertake a checklist for person centred fire risk.
  • If smoking is allowed, put strict control measures into place – for example, cigarettes might be looked after by staff members, so residents can only smoke with supervision, or fire retardant aprons could be provided to ensure dropped cigarettes do not ignite clothes
  • Install and maintain appropriate fire detection and suppression systems (sprinklers) – and provide a zoned chart by the alarm so that staff and firefighters can easily see which alarm has activated
  • Don't be afraid to ask for expert advice on fire safety topics – we're here to help you care for your residents safely.

Help and advice for residential care homes

Now you understand the risks and how important it is to do all you can to prevent fires, what help is available to you? 

Useful documents – an overview

When it comes to making your Fire Risk Assessment and Emergency Plan, it's important to treat every individual as an individual, and properly cater for their circumstances and needs. There's a useful guide to help on page 'Fire Safety Risk Assessment: Means of Escape for Disabled People.' 

Checklist for person centred fire risk

A good way to understand every resident's needs – and plan to meet them – is to complete a checklist for person centred fire risk. You'll find a document to help you at the bottom of this page. This template has been designed as a simple tool to use to identify fire risk and can be used by anyone that provides or is in receipt of care. It can also be used by Local Authorities and Registered Social Landlords when looking to identify risk and put in control measures.

London Fire Brigade Assisted Living Technology Handbook

This can be used to identify Assisted Living Technology that could be useful when looking to control or eliminate fire risk.

London Fire Brigade report on health equipment and associated fire risk

Up-to-date information about health equipment such as airflow mattresses and emollient creams and consideration of increased fire risk associated with these products.

Fire safety risk assessment: residential care premises

This checklist is a really helpful tool when it comes to completing your Fire Risk Assessment.


Complete or update your Fire Risk Assessment

Understand your responsibilities and find help to undertake this vital assessment.

Complete yours now

Useful downloads

Checklist for person centred fire risk

Download PDF (62kb)

GN 63 – Oxygen Therapy at Home

Download PDF (95kb)

Assisted Living Technology Catalogue

Download PDF (1,052kb)

Report on Health Equipment and Associated Fire Risks

Download PDF (120kb)

You might also be interested in...