Did you know a fire can engulf a room in four minutes, and 73% of house fires start in the living room? With the long summer days ahead of us, it’s a good time to make sure your house is fire safe.
While bushfires are a real concern in Australia, particularly in the summer months and areas surrounded by bush, home fires are a year-round risk. Numbering in the thousands each year across Australia, they cost millions of dollars in damages, and sometimes result in death. With some careful planning and preparation, most of these fires are preventable.
Make sure your smoke alarms are working
It’s the law – and common sense – to have one working fire alarm on every level of your home. If your home is especially large, or there are areas quite removed from the rest of the home, installing a second alarm is an inexpensive way to stay safe. Check the batteries every month, vacuum dust off them every six months, and replace batteries every 12 months. They should be completely replaced every ten years – or sooner.
Look out for unattended heat sources
A significant proportion of house fires are caused by unattended heat sources such as cooking left on stoves, candles and flammable materials, and the Department of Fire and Emergency Services in WA report there have been a spike in fires caused by electric blankets, wheat bags and fire places.
Other fires include keeping tea-towels and pot-holders away from the stove, ensuring heaters are off before going to bed or going out, never overloading power boards and replacing faulty appliances immediately.
Check all your electrical points and products
Electrical and gas appliances around your home can start a fire, particularly if they have been sitting unused. Reduce your risk by checking electric blankets for kinks in the wiring, and household appliances for visibly frayed or damaged wiring. Driers are also a risk factor, so keep the lint filter clean, and turn it off when you’re not at home or asleep. Don’t use electrical points that have come loose from the wall, and book a licensed gas-fitter to check your gas heater once a year.
“Understanding how to maintain household goods like electrical and heating components is vital to improving your household’s safety,” says DFES Fire Investigation and Analysis Unit District Officer Andy Duckworth.
Be smoke smart
Falling asleep with a cigarette in bed might sound like something from a Quentin Tarantino flick, but it’s actually a common cause of house fires, so ensure no one smokes in bed or on a couch. Children getting their curious little hands on lighters or matches is another common cause, so treat them as you would poisons and medicines – they should always be kept out of reach.
Keep your house free from clutter and combustibles
A tip that’s especially important for folks living in bush fire prone areas, it’s important to ensure your property are free from combustible clutter (think paper, long grasses or weeds, wood or leaves.) Pay particular attention to zones near you house, shed, fence line, and keep your gutters cleared.
Be ready to move in the case of a fire
In case of emergency, it’s best to be prepared with a detailed escape plan mapped out – these can DFES recommends you consider:
- Two ways to get out every room, if possible
- A designated safe place to meet up outside your house
- Ensuring security doors can be unlocked quickly from the inside
- An escape route for your pets
They recommend drawing your plan on paper, discussing it with your household and practising it once a year. Last but not least, ensure everyone knows how to stop, drop and roll, and to never try beating out flames – this gives them oxygen and allows them to flourish.