Adults who need care and support are at much greater risk of dying in a fire. Safeguarding Adults Reviews into fire deaths show that staff working with vulnerable adults often don’t spot fire risks and take action. That’s why it matters that the practitioners who support those adults work together to reduce fire deaths and injuries to vulnerable people.
If you visit adults with care and support needs in their own home, then it’s important that you know how to carry out a fire risk assessment, know what fire safety hazards to look out for and what steps to take to reduce fire risk.
A fire risk assessment generally involves the following 5 steps:
1. Identify the fire hazards
a) Have you found anything that could start a fire?
Be on the lookout for things in the person’s home such as candles, evidence of smoking, gas burners.
b) Have you found anything that could burn?
Consider hoarding clutter, such as piles of old newspapers.
Also consider anything specifically related to the person’s disability or care needs which might increase the risk of fire such as use of emollient creams, incontinence pads, medical oxygen and air-flow mattresses.
The London Fire Brigade has a very useful Checklist for Person-Centred Fire Risk Assessment (london-fire.gov.uk)
2. Identify people at risk
A person may be less able to react if there’s a fire and less able to escape quickly if the person has a physical disability, mental health condition, dementia, learning disability, sensory impairment, alcohol or substance misuse, or medication which impairs their functioning.
If so, make a referral to the London Fire Brigade for a home fire safety check Book a home fire safety visit | London Fire Brigade (london-fire.gov.uk)
Also consider other people who live/work in the person’s home.
3. Evaluate, remove or reduce the risks
Evaluating fire risks can be complex, particularly if your risk assessment identifies several fire hazards and risk factors. Consult with other organisations, the family and carers to ensure that you are aware of all fire-related factors. If in doubt about evaluating the fire risks, seek advice from your manager or the London Fire Brigade.
Fire risk reduction should be tailored to address the specific hazards and risks of the person. Measures could include:
- Smoking cessation support
- Sprinklers or misting systems
If the person refuses fire risk reduction measures, then you should
- consider whether a mental capacity assessment regarding fire risk decision-making is needed
- raise the matter with your manager and, if appropriate, seek to escalate the case to an appropriate multi-agency forum such as the Integrated Care Network, Hoarding Panel or Creative Solutions Panel.
4. Record, prepare an emergency plan and arrange training
Have you made a record of what you found and what actions you have taken?
Have you planned what everyone will do if there is a fire?
Have you ensured that the person, their family, carers and all practitioners visiting the person have a clear understanding of what the preventative measures are?
Has the person’s care plan been updated to include the fire risks, mitigations and personal emergency evacuation plan?
5. Review and update the fire risk assessment regularly
A fire risk assessment is only useful if it is kept up to date. This means it should be reviewed and updated regularly. But the fire risk assessment should be updated if there’s been:
- a change to the place the person lives or their building
- a fire or near misss
- a change in the person’s health condition, disability or functioning.
We offer a home fire safety training available as an e-learning module. The e-learning is aimed at
- Carers (both formal and informal)
- Social or Support Workers
- Occupational or Physiotherapists
- Other relevant professionals
- Anyone providing a caring role in someone’s own home
For more information about the training and to register for the e-learning, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org