Home safety for homeowners
We want to be as certain as possible that your home and the communal areas surrounding your home are safe for you and your family. As a homeowner, you are responsible for ensuring that your property is well maintained and cared for.
Watch our Fix it videos to find out more about how you can carry out simple day-to-day repairs safely.
Below you will find some useful information on some of the most common safety and security issues:
What is asbestos?
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that was used in many forms as a building material in Great Britain until the late 1990s. Asbestos is a fibrous material, which was added to products to strengthen them and provide fire proofing and noise reduction. If your home was built before the year 2000, there is a possibility it may contain asbestos.
Undisturbed, undamaged or sealed asbestos is safe. As your landlord, Orbit wants to make sure you understand our responsibilities and your responsibilities if asbestos is present in your home.
What is wrong with asbestos?
When asbestos materials age or become damaged, they may release fibres into the air. If breathed in, the fibres could lead to asbestos related diseases, but they are rare – lengthy exposure to high levels of asbestos is needed.
Where is asbestos most likely to be found in the home?
Asbestos is most likely to be found in the following locations in and around the home:
- behind old fires and boilers and lagging on old pipes and water tanks
- behind old fuse boards and at the back of airing cupboards
- in old vinyl floor tiles and textured wall and ceiling coating (Artex)
- garage\shed roofs, gutters and downpipes.
Most occurrences of asbestos in housing are of low risk and very unlikely to harm your health
For more information, we’ve put together an asbestos leaflet for homeowners.
- Fire Safety
Homeowners living in blocks:
Fire safety is important; fires can cause a lot of damage and at worst, cost lives. Although fires are not common, it's important we work together to prevent them and you know what to do if a fire does start. This leaflet provides lots of useful information on fire prevention and what to do if a fire starts in your home.
As a homeowner living in a block, the door to your home must be a compliant fire door. Our fire door safety leaflet for homeowners provides more information.
- It is normal for blocks to not have fire extinguishers and fire blankets as we want you to move away, rather than towards a fire, to a place of safety. The presence of fire entinguishers encourages people to fight a fire, rather than evacuate the building. Additionally, a person may be tempted to re-enter a flat, having collected a fire entinguisher from a communal area, which is more dangerous than directly evacuating and ensuring the flat door is fully closed behind them. Fire blankets are generally applied to pan fires and where the user is untrained, serious injurues including burns and scalds, can occur if the fire is not properly cooled before the blanket is removed. The fire may also start again if enough heat remains and it hasn't been fully put out.
- Test your smoke detector regularly (every for to six weeks).
- If your block only has one exit then it will not need to have a fire exit sign posted above it.
- It’s important to keep all communal areas free from personal items and debris as it can hinder escape routes and also help fires spread. Make sure fire doors are always closed, don't prop them open as it can damage the seal. Although we check them regularly, be sure to report it to us if they are not closing into the frame properly or have been damaged.
- Household rubbish should always be taken to the refuse area immediately and not left in communal areas.
- It is easy to get confused if it is dark or smoky so it’s important to know your route out of the building using the exit stairs. Count the number of doors you need to go through or use familiar objects to guide you to help with your escape in the event of a fire.
- If you have access your meter with a key via the building's riser, it is really important that the doors remain locked and shut when not in use and that you report it to us if the door is not locked or closing properly. A riser is the duct that houses various cables and pipes that are in use around the building.
- Not allowing non-residents into your block can reduce the risk of anti-social behaviour (ASB) and fires starting, so keep all doors secure.
If you have a smoke detector in your home, it should be checked regularly and this is your responsibility.
If you live in a supported, sheltered, very sheltered or independent with living care scheme block, you may also be covered by either a fire panel* or your warden cord system. Both of these systems will be tested by our contractors on a periodic basis. One way to check is that smoke detectors that are part of a fire panel system do not have a self-test button.
*a fire panel is an alerting system either in communal area or a flat.
If your flat is being affected by fire or smoke and your escape route is clear:
- Get everyone out, close all windows and doors and walk calmly out of the building.
- Do not use the lift.
- Call 999, give your address, the number of your flat and state which floor the fire is on
If there is a fire or smoke inside your flat but your escape route is NOT clear:
• It may still be safer to stay in your flat until the fire brigade arrives.
• Find a safe room, close the door and use soft materials to block any gaps to stop the smoke.
• Go to a window, shout “HELP, FIRE” and call 999.
• Be ready to describe where you are and the quickest way to reach you.
If there is a fire in another part of the building:
Purpose-built blocks of flats are built to give you some protection from fire. Walls, floors and doors can hold back flames and smoke for 30 to 60 minutes.
- You are usually safer staying put and calling 999.
- Tell the fire brigade where you are and the best way to reach you.
- If you are within the common parts of the building, leave and call 999.
Homeowners living in houses:
Fire safety is important; fires can cause a lot of damage and at worst, cost lives. Although fires are not common, it's important we work together to prevent them and you know what to do if a fire does start. This leaflet provides lots of useful information on fire prevention and what to do if a fire starts in your home. Some fire brigades offer a free home checking service, so it may be worth contacting them for a home safety check or additional fire safety advice.
If you have a smoke detector in your home, it should be checked regularly as this is your responsibility.
If any of your smoke alarms go off, never assume that it is a false alarm.
- Don’t waste time investigating what’s happened or rescuing valuables.
- Don’t tackle fires yourself, many people are injured this way.
- Leave it to the professionals.
- Keep calm and get out, closing doors behind you to slow down the spread of fire and smoke.
- Before you open a door check if it’s warm with the back of your hand. If it is, don’t open it, there may be a fire on the other side. If there’s smoke, keep low where the air is clearer.
- Call 999 as soon as it’s safe to do so – 999 calls are free.
- Never go back into the building once you are safely outside.
If you cannot make voice calls, you can contact the 999 emergency services by SMS text from your mobile phone. You will only be able to use this service if you have registered with emergency SMS first. Text ‘register’ to 999. You will get a reply – then follow the instructions you are sent.
Advice for all customers:
What do I do if I have a faulty appliance? To confirm your appliance is affected, please check your model and serial number, or look for the model data label. You can check if your appliance has been recalled using a tool on the Electrical Safety First website at http://www.electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk/product-recalls/
- Gas Safety
I think I can smell gas – what should I do?
IMPORTANT If you smell gas or suspect you have a gas leak, leave the property and telephone the Gas Emergency Services on 0800 111 999 and then contact our Customer Service Centre. If you have difficulties hearing, you may contact the National Grid by textphone (Minicom) on 0800 371 787. Do not use a mobile or cordless telephone unless you are outside the property away from the suspected leak.
If you feel it is safe to do so, turn off the gas at the main supply, at the gas meter, then:
- Open all doors and windows to ventilate the property
- Do not use any electrical equipment or turn on/off any lights or sockets Extinguish all naked flames (gas cookers and fires), do not smoke, strike matches or do anything which could cause a spark
- If there is any electrical entry phones/locks/door bells, please look out for the engineer and open the door manually. It is also a good idea to put a note on the door telling people not to use the electrical door entry system or doorbell
- Check to see if a gas tap has been left on or the pilot light has blown out on any gas boilers or appliances.
If you would like more general information condensation and mould, electrical safety, frost damage or Legionella, click here.