Most of us think about Summer when it comes to the risk of a fire threat in Australia. Our hot, dry summers and regular blazing bushfire are given national media coverage, but that is not our greatest risk of death from fire in Australia. According to a data obtained by Allianz in 2019 - there are over 11,000 house fires in Australia each year, and that results in a whopping 50 deaths per year caused by accidental house fires.
According to a study by Macquarie University - together with the Bushfire and Natural hazards Co-operative Research Centre (also 2019), most deaths occur at night and more than one third of those who died in residential fires were over the age of 65.
You have more chance of dying in a house fire in Winter, than any given natural hazards combined in the same time period (Bushfire, flood and storms).
So what can we do about it??
Deadly, but avoidable
The research shows that Fatal Fires commonly occur in the bedroom and the living room. So how can we avoid them??
The most common causes of residential fires are
Flammable items left near heaters. Be sure to keep curtains, tablecloths and bedding away from portable heaters
Keep wet clothing at least 1 metre from heaters or fireplaces and never drape items over heater or leave unattended
Check electric blankets each year. Look for damage or frayed cords before placing on your bed. Be sure to roll your electric blanket for storage, not fold it, this helps prevent damage to element wires. Never sleep with electric blankets on (turn off once in bed) and never sit heavy items on the bed when the electric blanket is on.
Never leave candles or any open flame unattended
clear the lint from the dryer after each use, and be sure to allow the dryer to cool down between uses
Use 1 item per power point and switch them off when not in use. Heaters draw a lot of power and may overload supply, which can cause a fire
If you have a fire place, be sure the flue is clean. Regular flue servicing is essential for safety. Gas heaters should also be cleaned and serviced by a licenced gas fitter before the cold season starts.
Avoid using outdoor cooking or heating equipment inside
Never, ever leave cooking unattended. Same rule with any open flame.
MAKE SURE YOUR INSURANCE IS CURRENT and has the correct cover should you need it
Fire evacuation plan
Winter can be an enjoyable season and an opportunity to snuggle in front of a cosy fire with your special someone. Just be sure to keep loved ones safe.
Have a fire evacuation plan in place for the whole family. Make sure the kids understand the danger of fire and what to do if they are in one. Stop, Drop and Roll is a good practice for them to be aware of should their clothing catch fire.
Be sure any elderly people that reside with you have an evacuation plan they can manage should disaster strike.
Smoke alarms save lives!!!
Smoke alarms have been proven to save lives. Make sure the batteries are checked every 6 months and replaced at least once a year.
The smoke alarm itself should be checked each month to make sure it is functioning. Never temporarily disconnect them, they are a crucial tool in early fire detection, and can give you and your family the precious time needed to evacuate should a fire occur. Remember, most lethal house fires occur at night, the humble smoke alarm may be all that wakes you in time to get to safety.
With Winter being so close, the time for action is now!! Keep your family and home safe in the coming season using some, or all of the tips above. For more information you could contact your local fire brigade and ask them for their advice on fire prevention. If and when disaster strikes and you do suffer a property loss due to a residential house fire, remember we are here to help