Advice for care staff on cutting high rates of fire deaths among users

One-third of accidental fire-related deaths over past three years involves people using home care, and care staff need to be aware of the warning signs, says London Fire Brigade.

Care staff are often well-placed to check smoke alarms are working (Credit: Monkey Business Images/R

Home care workers are to be offered new guidance on fire safety to help cut the number of fire-related deaths among service users.

Over the last three years, 36 out of 119 accidental fire deaths in London involved people who received care at home, London Fire Brigade figures out today show. The brigade said care workers were often the first to spot risk factors such as burn marks on carpets from cigarettes or a smoke alarm that has run out of battery.

On the back of the findings, London Fire Brigade has worked with Skills for Care to provide new advice on fire safety to care workers and managers in their introductory training, through the common induction standards for care staff and management induction standards.

This includes information on factors that make a person at greater risk of a fire occuring in their home or of not being able to escape from their home in the event of fire, such as dementia, mobility problems or sensory impairment, and on contacting the local fire brigade for advice.

“We would urge care workers and their managers to contact their local [fire] officers who can offer free expert advice to anyone they think might be at risk,” said Skills for Care chief executive Sharon Allen.

The London Fire Brigade’s research covered 2009-11. Of the 36 deaths, 31 people received care from a regulated provider and five were cared for informally. Roughly half of the deceased experienced poor mental health, 14 was known to drink alcohol and 33 were known smokers.

The guidance has also been backed by the Care Quality Commission, which uses implementation of the common induction standards as a requirement for meeting essential standards on staffing. The CQC has agreed to create a link to the new appendices in the training notes for its inspectors, to ensure they look for understanding of fire safety issues in inspections of care agencies.

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