By Garry Kwok, National Technical Services Manager at Wormald
It’s hard to ignore the media reports of injuries and damage caused by house fires across Australia and New Zealand this winter.
Unfortunately, the cooler months bring increased fire risks for householders as heaters and electric blankets come out of storage and many turn to open fires and radiators to keep warm.
Reports from Fire & Rescue NSW show that 43 per cent of fire fatalities occur during the winter months. While many house fires are caused by heating equipment and faulty appliances, statistics from the Metropolitan Fire Service also show that the majority of house fires attended during winter 2012 were cooking related.
A key to reducing the risk of fire occurring in the home and to surviving a house fire is to be prepared.
I can’t highlight enough how important it is for every household to have working smoke alarms in place. Many fire fatalities occur when occupants are sleeping and it’s important to remember that while sound can disrupt sleep, generally scent cannot. Smoke alarms are important for early fire detection and can provide the precious time needed for occupants to escape safely.
It’s recommended that every household has at least one smoke alarm, preferably photoelectric, installed between the bedrooms and the remainder of the house, and on any other storey within the home. All smoke alarms should be checked once a month and the batteries changed every 12 months.
Fire extinguishers and fire blankets are also essential tools for defending against fire. All occupants in a home should be aware of where the fire protection equipment is located and how to use it. Fire escape plans should also be prepared and practiced regularly.
To help minimise the risk of fire, it’s a good idea to run through a simple checklist before leaving the house or going to bed:
- Ensure heaters are placed a minimum of one metre away from anything that could potentially burn. Be sure to switch off at the appliance as well as turning of the power outlet
- Ensure all heating equipment is clean and in proper working order. Inspect electrical cords and arrange for an electrician to replace if cracked or damaged
- Switch off electrical blankets before going to bed
- Extinguish any candles before going to bed or leaving the room
- When cooking, don’t leave cooking appliances unattended. If you need to leave the room for more than a few minutes, switch off the stove or oven
- If you have a fireplace, use a mesh guard to protect against flying sparks and embers from an open fire. Ensure the fire has been completely smothered before leaving the room or house
If you or someone you know has been affected by fire, you may want to consider contacting the Fire Foundation. Wormald supports the work of the Fire Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation which helps fire and burns victims throughout Australia to rebuild their lives.