Stay fire safe this winter

By John Lynch, general manager, Business Support Services, Wormald

As the cold weather sets in, many homeowners will turn to portable heaters, open fires and electric blankets to keep the temperatures up.

The Sydney Morning Herald recently reported there had been 27 house fires across New South Wales in the first six days of winter. According to the article, on average two thirds of house-fire deaths occur between May and September – last year the figure was 80 per cent. These are alarming statistics and should really make everyone consider their fire safety plans, particularly during the winter months.

The article also cites heaters, smoking and electrical equipment such as electric blankets as the most common causes of fatal house fires.

Here are a few tips to help minimise the risk of fire this winter, around the home and at work:

  • With many extra appliances running during the colder months, it’s important not to overload electrical circuits and extension cords. These can cause a short circuit and spark the start of a fire.
  • Before bringing out that old portable heater or electric blanket, make sure the cords are not worn or frayed and that the appliance is working correctly. If you’re unsure, have them serviced by a professional.
  • Be careful when using portable heaters, particularly under desks or in enclosed spaces. The heat from these units can ignite paper or melt the insulation around electrical appliances. Also, ensure they are turned off at the wall before leaving the room.
  • Be mindful not to place clothes or towels near heaters or let curtains fall near them as these can quickly catch on fire.

Fire safety equipment such as fire blankets and fire extinguishers are very effective in minimising the impact of a fire. However it’s important that you understand what the correct type of fire extinguisher is to suit a particular fire hazard, where the fire equipment should be located, exactly how to use it and when it will need to be serviced or replaced.

Smoke alarms can save lives and we strongly advise that they are regularly checked to ensure they are in proper working order. After all, there’s not much point in having a smoke alarm in place if it won’t work when you need it to.

We often find that people are unsure as to how many smoke alarms they should have in their home and where they should be located. Wormald’s sister company Exelgard has put together a useful video which provides instructions for installing smoke alarms. It’s available at

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