In the event of an emergency
What should I do?
If you are encountering one of the issues listed below, please click for information.
You may need to take action yourself before reporting the issue to us.
Please note that an emergency is classed as a fire, flood or gas leak, please contact the relevant emergency service. If your issue is not classed as an "emergency" you should wait until office hours to report it, thank you.
If your escape route is blocked
- If you're on the ground floor, go out of a window – throw bedding or cushions onto the ground outside to break your fall.
- If you can't open the window, use a heavy object to break it – cover any jagged edges with clothing, a towel or a blanket
- Lower children as far as possible before letting them drop – get an adult to break their fall if you can lower yourself by your arms from the window ledge before dropping
- If you can't get out, get everyone into one room
- Choose a room with a window, if you can
- Put cushions, towels or bedding at the bottom of the door to block smoke
- Open the window and call for help
- think about which room might be best for this – you need a window that can be opened and, if possible, a phone for calling 999.
Once you're out and safe, try and find a phone to call the emergency services – 999 calls are free. When you speak to the operator:
- Give your whole address, including the town
- tell them what is on fire, e.g. 'a two-storey house'
- explain if anyone is trapped and what room they're in – give as much information as you can so they can help you
- Don't go back in
You should find somewhere safe to wait near the building. If there is someone still inside wait for the Fire and Rescue Service to arrive; you can tell them about the person and they will be able to find them quicker than you. If you go back into the building, you will slow down the firefighters efforts to rescue anyone else missing – and put your own life in danger.
What to do if you live in a high-rise flat
If you live in a block of flats, you should consider that a fire could start directly outside your flat, or in the stairwell. See 'Planning a safe escape' for more information on planning an escape – it includes specific guidance for plans for high-rises. If a fire starts in your flat or the stairwell and you can't get out:
- Get everyone into a room with a window – put cushions, bedding, or clothes around the bottom of the door to block smoke.
- Open the window – if you feel in serious danger, wave a sheet out of the window so the firefighters know you're there.
- If the fire is directly outside your flat, seal your front door with tape, bedding or clothes, close any ventilators and phone 999
- If your front door becomes hot, wet it down.
Turn off the water supply
For most of us, it's difficult to think clearly and act decisively during an emergency. The best time to learn how to turn off the water supply to your home is therefore not while a torrent of water is flowing through it. Make sure that you and the people who share your home know how to turn off the water supply. If you experience a water leak, you'll then be able to stem the flow within a couple of seconds.
To drain the system, run a cold tap, making sure to keep some water for drinking.
How to turn water off
Fortunately, turning the water off is simple enough. You'll need to find the stopcock, which is a valve you can switch off by turning clockwise. This will cut off the supply to your home and stop the problem getting a great deal worse. You can also switch off the supply to individual fixtures (such as toilets for example) but if you're suffering a water leak it makes more sense to go straight to the stopcock. Test it regularly to make sure it hasn't seized up.
If you need to turn off the external stop-tap, you'll find this somewhere on the boundary of your property.
Most stopcocks are found under the kitchen sink on the ground floor. Try to keep this area free of clutter to make it easier to find in an emergency. In other homes it could be somewhere close to the sink in the kitchen, or in a hallway area at the front or rear of the house.
To find it, start at the cold tap in the kitchen and follow the pipe as far as you can, continuing in the same general direction until you see the stopcock. Again, it's best to do this when there isn't a leak in the house, and to make sure everyone knows where it is.
Turn off powered water heating systems
If it's obvious that the leak is due to your water heating system, you can turn off the water and power supply to it. The water supply to your heating system can be switched off by locating the shut-off valve nearby and closing it.
Turn on a hot tap to drain the system.
Cut off the power to your electric heating system by finding the relevant switch in your circuit breaker box and switching it off. Do this immediately if there is any danger of flooding in the area.
If it's a gas-powered heating system, you can simply turn it off.
- Open doors and windows to allow fresh air in.
- Turn off the gas at the mains tap, which is usually near the meter.
- Move the handle a quarter turn until it’s at 90 degrees from the pipe to shut off the gas supply.
- Leave the property.
- Phone the National Gas Emergencies number on 0800 111 999.
- Only use a mobile phone from outside the property. The number is free and available 24 hours a day.
- Follow the advice given by the emergency adviser.
- Wait outside for a gas engineer to arrive.
- If you are feeling unwell, visit your GP or hospital immediately.
- Tell them you may have been exposed to a gas leak or carbon monoxide poisoning.