Fire safety in care homes – what do you need to know?

21 September 2021

Fire safety is essential in all commercial buildings but is incredibly important within care homes. Care homes present unique challenges and the consequences of getting fire safety wrong can be fatal. Additionally, fire safety failings may result in a care home being rated “inadequate” by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and may even result in personal prosecution.

Fire safety is regulated by the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. The Order places responsibilities on anyone with an involvement in fire safety in care homes such as registered managers, risk assessors and fire alarm technicians. However, the primary duties lie with the care provider as the employer and therefore “Responsible Person.”

Common fire risks in care homes

According to London Fire Brigade, the most common fire risks in care homes are:

  • Smoking – smoking materials being disposed of carelessly and smoking not being controlled or monitored.
  • Electrical equipment – electrical items being placed too close to flammable materials.
  • Spread of fire – doors being wedged open giving the potential for fire spread throughout the building.

Additionally, they highlighted some common areas for concern in care homes:

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up-to-date or appropriately personalised – vulnerable peoples’ needs change over time, and plans can quickly become out of date.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

So with that in mind, here’s a quick overview of what you need to know in relation to fire safety regulations in care homes.

Fire risk assessments

Fire risk assessments are vital components of commercial fire safety and care homes are no exception. Every care home must ensure that a detailed and up to date risk assessment is available, with staff informed of key findings. The risk assessment must highlight the fire safety risks at a premises and the measures in place to prevent or deal with a fire, along with any areas of improvement required.

Fire risk assessments need to be carried out by a competent person, which could be the care home manager for example, however employing a professional is generally considered helpful and cost effective. It’s worth noting that any assessor used must have relevant knowledge and experience of care homes to provide a comprehensive and workable fire risk assessment.

Fire doors

It is vital that care home fire doors are kept sufficiently well-maintained to hold back smoke and fire long enough to evacuate residents. If any are discovered to be damaged action must be taken ASAP. For fire doors to do their job they must remain closed and so it’s vital that staff and residents do not prop open fire doors.


Care homes are usually separated into fire safety compartments and the 2006 government guidance recommended that each compartment should be capable of evacuation in 2 and a half minutes. However, more recent guidelines acknowledge that this is not possible for many homes. In any case, it may not be necessary to evacuate the entire care home in case of emergency, just the affected areas. However, there must be a plan for evacuating the entire home, if necessary. With that in mind, well-trained staff is key in achieving this. Additionally, the evacuation plan must take into account mobility issues with regards to the residents and the time of the evacuation must be considered. For example, are there any extra challenges with evacuation in the middle of the night?

Other fire safety points to consider in care homes

Mobility scooters are commonplace in care homes and the NFCC has provided specific fire safety guidance in relation to them:

“Mobility scooters involved in a fire can release large volumes of smoke and generate significant heat outputs. If mobility scooters are stored on escape routes and are involved in a fire, there is a potential that escape routes will become impassable and residents could be placed at significant risk in the event of a fire.”

With that in mind, mobility scooters should be stored in areas separated from escape routes by suitable fire doors and covered by fire detectors.

In care homes where residents are allowed to smoke, smoking control measures may also be implemented. 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.

Care home fire safety consultants

Total Fire Group are BAFE Approved fire safety consultants who can help you with fire safety in your care home.

As part of your fire safety partnership with Total Fire Group, we will review your existing documentation and procedures before confirming if they provide the correct level of information and detail in order to be compliant. Additionally, we’ll assess your current risk levels and existing action and emergency plans so that we can then make recommendations on any further action you could take to improve your policies to assist you with a route to compliance.

For more information on our fire safety consultancy, contact us at Total Fire Group.


We offer our clients a complete fire safety management service, our key services include:

Fire Risk Assessments

Delivering a comprehensive and detailed report on your property.

Fire Safety Consultancy

We can provide a partnership which offers auditing and consultancy services.

Fire Risk Management Software

Manage multiple risk assessment actions with our Aurora software.

Fire Safety Training

Our fire safety training courses cover every level of fire safety, from basic through to advanced.