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A - Alcohol and drug related fire incidents

The Facts

  • More than 50% of fire fatalities within the home involve drink or drug-related behaviour.
  • Being under the influence of drink or drugs makes you more vulnerable.

Impact of alcohol (and drug use) on cognition

  • Intoxication can also cause drowsiness and can make you less alert to the signs of fire.
  • Alcohol/drugs can heighten feelings of disorientation, making it difficult to escape.

Alcohol

Alcohol is a significant factor in accidental dwelling fires, contributing to 8% (2,483) of accidental dwelling fires in England in 2011/12. In these instances, it was over three times more likely that the fire would result in a fire-related death, and tragically, more than half (56%) of the casualties were not the person drinking.

The rate of serious injuries in dwelling fires is also four times higher where alcohol is a factor.

Alcohol depresses the central nervous system, and within a relatively short time can cause unsteadiness, blurred vision, slowed reaction times, and impaired memory. This means that alcohol use increases the likelihood of having a fire because it inhibits the ability to make safe decisions and respond appropriately in an emergency. The risks are much higher if we carry out activities such as smoking or cooking when under the influence of alcohol.

We previously focused only on alcohol dependence (or ‘alcoholism’ - a strong, often uncontrollable, desire to drink) as a risk, but NFRS now recognise that binge drinking (having six or more units on one occasion) can be just as risky if this means a person is less in control of their actions

If you are concerned about the effects of alcohol on safety, our partners in Alcohol Services recommend asking four additional ‘lifestyle’ questions to help make a professional judgement about the level of fire risk. These are:

  • Have you ever, during the past 12 months
  • Drunk until you either passed out or fell asleep?
  • Injured yourself or others because of your drinking?
  • Forgotten what you did the night before?
  • Needed a drink first thing in a morning?”

Drug use

The impact of drugs on a person’s function should also be considered if the side effects are the same as alcohol intoxication. It is important to ask the person about how the drugs that they take makes them feel.

The table below gives examples of common side effects of prescription medications, but we must also consider the impact of drugs that can be bought ‘over the counter’ or recreational drugs.

Type of medication Examples Effects
Antihypertensive and diuretics

Amlodipine

Furosemide

Can cause postural hypotension – low blood pressure when changing position
Benzodiazepines, sedatives and hypnotics

Diazepam

Zopiclone

Can cause sedation, impair balance and can affect thinking
Neuroleptics and antipsychotics Olanzapine Can cause sedation
Antidepressants Amitriptyline Can cause sedation, sleep disturbance with daytime sleepiness, and confusion
Narcotics Morphine Can cause drowsiness
Antidiabetics Gliclazide Lowers blood sugar and can cause falls
Polypharmacy: Any use of a combination of drugs from the list above will greatly increase the risk

CHARLIE-P score

The CHARLIE-P score rates how alcohol or drugs use may impact the individual’s risk of having, and responding to, a fire in their home:

Score 1 2 4 8 10
Descriptor Rare Unlikely Possible Likely Almost certain
A Alcohol use

Alcohol – not used

AND

Drug Use – no concerns

Alcohol - used but no concerns

AND

Drug Use – no concerns

Alcohol – used but no concerns

AND

Drug Use – minimal concerns

Alcohol – a one-off issue identified re: safety, binge drinking, or dependency

OR

Drug Use - significant concerns

Alcohol – significant, ongoing issues identified re: safety, binge drinking or dependency
  1. 1 - Alcohol – not used AND Drug Use – no concerns

  2. 2 - Alcohol - used but no concerns AND Drug Use – no concerns

    Where the person uses alcohol but there are no concerns raised about fire safety related to this, give a score of 2.

  3. 4 - Alcohol – used but no concerns AND Drug Use – minimal concerns

    Here, the person uses alcohol but there are no concerns about fire safety. However, there are minimal concerns that side effects of drug use (prescribed, over-the-counter medication or recreational drugs) could increase the risk in the event of a fire.

  4. 8 – Alcohol – one-off issues identified re: safety, binge drinking or dependency

    In this category, risky behaviours related to alcohol were a one-off incident

    This score should be used if the client answers “yes” to at least one of the ‘Lifestyle Questions’ above, where family / referrer have concerns, or where signs of alcohol use are observed by staff.

    Or Drug Use - significant concerns

    Significant concerns about drug use could include where side effects of any drugs (prescribed, over-the-counter medication or recreational drugs) would significantly increase the risk in the event of a fire.

  5. 10 – Alcohol – significant, ongoing issues identified re: safety, binge drinking or dependency

    In this category, risky behaviours related to alcohol are regular and ongoing

    This score could be used if the client answers “yes” to at least one of the ‘Lifestyle Questions’ above, where family / referrer have concerns or where concerning signs of alcohol use are observed by staff.