Last updated:
8 November 2017

Safety advice for older people

Advice for older people on how to prevent fires in the home.

If you know an older person who you think might be at risk from fire, help them to stay safe by encouraging them to follow these simple tips to improve fire safety in the home:

Portable heaters

Using a portable heater to stay warm is a popular way of heating the home. Unfortunately they have the ability to cause a fire if not used properly.

Follow our simple tips to ensure they are used safely.


  • put the heater on a level surface, away from anything that could knock it over
  • regularly inspect the heater for damage
  • place the heater at least a metre away from combustible materials.


  • leave the heater unattended while it is ignited or while you are asleep
  • buy or use second hand heaters, and purchase them from recognised manufactures
  • use it to dry your clothes.

Using an electric blanket

West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service carry out free electric blanket testing annually.

To help you stay safe and warm this winter we recommend that you follow these simple steps when purchasing, using and storing your electric blanket. If your blanket is more than 10 years old you should consider disposing of it and buying a new one.


  • read and follow the manufacturer's instructions before use
  • carry out a visual check of the blanket to make sure it is intact, with no visible signs of damage when first purchased
  • replace it with a new one if the fabric is worn or frayed.


  • touch the blanket with wet hands or feet
  • use the blanket while it is still folded, rucked or creased
  • use the blanket if the wires are visible or poking through the fabric
  • have the blanket switched on when you are in bed/sleeping.

Wheat bags

Wheat bags have a variety of uses, including as a source of warmth during cold weather. However, some people use them to warm their beds, which is not what they are designed for and could cause a fire.

Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully, ensuring the wheat bag is not heated in a microwave for too long, or at too high a temperature.


  • only buy wheat bags with clear heating instructions
  • read and follow the manufacturer's instructions
  • a smell of burning, indicating overuse
  • leave to cool in a safe area and on a non-flammable surface, such as in a kitchen sink.


  • leave the microwave unattended when heating
  • overheat (maximum is 3 minutes for most manufacturers)
  • use wheat bags as bed warmers
  • reheat the bag until it has completely cooled, which could take up to 2 hours.

Smoke alarms

Find information about smoke alarms and how to request a free Safe and Well Visit.


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