The leaves are falling, daylight savings has ended and it’s time to get your winter coat, electric blanket and heater from out of the cupboard. But just like summer, winter brings its own unique set of fire dangers.
Indeed, according to statistics, almost half (43 per cent) of all fire fatalities occur in winter. But just like in summer, there are some things you can do to help keep you and your family safe.
Fireplaces and chimneys
- Clean chimneys and flues before your first fire of the season.
- Always use a fireguard or spark-guard with open fires.
- Never throw rubbish into the fireplace, particularly batteries and aerosol cans.
- Be mindful that ashes can take up to five days to cool so always empty your fireplace or wood burner ashes and ashtrays into a metal bin and pour water over them before throwing them out
- Before going to bed, make sure your fireplace fire is out.
- Worn and old electric blankets can cause an electric shock, fire and possibly even death. At the first sign of wear have your electric blanket checked by a qualified electrician.
- It’s best practice to replace your electric blanket every five years with newer heat-protected models. These are not only more energy efficient but are much safer.
- Don’t place heavy objects on the bed while the blanket is on.
- Twisted cords are a common cause of electric blanket fires.
- Make sure the blanket is always flat on the bed and that controls or cords are not twisted or caught between the mattress and the base of the bed.
- When you store blanket away in the warmer months, make sure you roll it up and don’t fold it. Folding it can damage the wiring.
According to the NSW Fire and Rescue service, kitchen fires are the number one cause of household fires during winter. So when you’re trying to be the next Masterchef, keep these fire safety rules in mind.
- Never ever leave cooking unattended – stick to the mantra “Keep Looking When Cooking”.
- Heat cooking oil carefully and slowly in the right size saucepan to avoid fat splatters.
- Turn pot and pan handles inwards so they can’t be knocked over.
- Clean your stove grill after each use and clean the range hood filter and all kitchen appliances regularly.
- Install a fire extinguisher and fire blanket in the kitchen and know how to use them. They should be stored at least one metre away from the stove and between the stove and the nearest exit.
- Install non-slip matting around the stove and sink area. If cooking oil catches fire, turn off the hotplate and slide the lid over the pan or use the fire blanket to smother the fire.
- Ensure that all cooking appliances are turned off after use.
Heaters and clothes dryers
- Don’t keep your tea towels, oven mitts and other flammable items near the stove or cook-top.
- Don’t use water to put out fat and oil fires. Water can cause the fire to spread rapidly and cause horrific burns.
- Remember the heater-metre rule – always keep furniture, curtains, clothes and children at least one metre away from heaters and fireplaces.
- Don’t store objects on top of your heating appliance.
- Never cover heating appliances.
- Don’t overload clothes dryers and clean the lint filter after each load cycle.
Portable outdoor gas heaters
When using gas heaters please take a few moments to consider the following safety precautions – they may save a life.
- Only use in well ventilated outdoor areas and on stable, level ground.
- Keep clear from overhead coverings such as awnings, shade sails and other combustible materials which can by ignited by radiant heat. The manufacturer’s instructions will show the necessary clearances from combustible materials.
- Check to see that the hose is in good condition and doesn’t show any signs of damage or wear.
- If the heater does not light straight away, turn it off and then try again. Don’t let the gas build up before trying to relight it.
- Always read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for maintenance. Outdoor gas heaters do require safety checks and regular servicing (every two years). Gas cylinders and hose fittings must be checked for faults and damage regularly.
Most importantly, have an adequate number of suitable smoke alarms installed throughout your home and make sure that you test them regularly.
For more information on home fire safety contact your local fire service.