The Biggest Fire Dangers in Your Home
House fires can occur at any time throughout the year. The hot and dry summer months provide ideal conditions for fires to start, and winter brings with it the need for extra appliances and heat sources that have the potential to malfunction. The effects of a house fire can be devastating, but the good news is that most fires are preventable by identifying the fire dangers in your home.
The most common fire dangers in your home
The majority of fires begin in the kitchen, sleeping areas and lounge area of a home, with the most common causes being heat sources and electrical short circuits. In order to ensure the safety of your family and take action to prevent a fire in your home, it is important to recognise some of the most common dangers.
Most house fires start from cooking. This could be caused by cooking food being left unattended or by oil or other ingredients catching fire. The most important things to remember are to never leave cooking unattended, and to make sure you have a fire blanket or extinguisher within arm’s reach that meets Australian Standards.
Furnaces, open fires, portable heaters, and electric blankets are commonly used in winter, but can pose a serious fire risk. Make sure any appliances are regularly inspected, do not have frayed cords or rust, and meet safety standards. Make sure heaters are never covered, and keep them away from furniture, curtains, and so on. Open fires should have screens, and chimneys and flues should be cleaned regularly. On top of this, when having a new heating system installed, ensure only qualified tradespeople are used.
Make sure all your electrical equipment is in good order. This means making sure the cords are not frayed and making sure they are clean. For example, lint should be removed from a clothes dryer every single time it is used. Similarly, a build up of crumbs in a toaster or grease on a range hood could be a fire hazard. It is also important not to overload sockets with multiple appliances, or to use appliances that take more power than an extension lead can carry.
Old wiring in homes can become faulty and cause an electrical fire. Signs that your wiring may have issues are safety switches regularly tripping, fuses blowing, lights dimming or flickering, warm, vibrating or charred outlets or switches, and smoke smells from outlets. If you notice any of these signs, discontinue use and be sure to have a qualified electrician perform an inspection as soon as possible.
Cigarettes and Matches
As with lit cigarettes, cigarette butts can easily start a fire as they can remain lit for several hours. It is best to wet all cigarette butts to ensure they are put out safely. It is also advised to never smoke in bed and to take extra caution with cigarettes when feeling tired or drinking alcohol. Cigarettes, matches and lighters should also never be left unattended or within the reach of children.
Candles and Oil Burners
Anything with naked flames such as candles and oil burners should be kept away from curtains, clothing, or any other flammable objects, as well as from open windows. Candles and oil burners should also never be left unattended.
Barbecues and Outdoor Heaters
Barbecues and outdoor heaters are hazards not just for their flames, but also for potential gas leaks. Don’t let gas bottles exceed their expiry date, and make sure gas bottles and hoses do not have leaks. Outdoor heaters should be used as per their instructions, which will usually have minimum distances from rooves, shade sails or awnings.
Along with the above, other gas appliances such as heating systems, cooktops and so on have the potential to become a danger. All such appliances should be installed by licensed professionals and maintained regularly. If you smell gas and do not know the source or cannot stop a leak, be sure to call Triple Zero (000).
Light bulbs can start fires. If anything is too close to the bulb it can stop the heat from dispersing and cause the bulb to overheat and cause a fire. Halogen tubes and incandescent bulbs are more of a risk than LED lights (when installed correctly by professionals). Lights should not be left on for long periods of time. Check any lamps and their wiring. When it comes to fairy lights, always get a quality product rather than a cheap light that may be below standard.
Flammable and Combustible Liquids
You may have more flammable liquids in your home, garage or shed than you realise. Products such as petrol and lube oil are clearly flammable, but did you know the same also applies to nail polish remover, paint thinner, rubbing alcohol, pesticides, spray paint and all oils? These liquids should always be used and stored appropriately and kept away from flames and heat sources.
Take Action to Prevent Fires
As well as the tips above, there are further steps you can take to prevent fires at home. Did you know that the legislation for smoke alarms has changed? To best protect your family from house fires, the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) recommends getting your smoke alarms updated to fit with the new legislation as soon as possible. In the interim, it is also important to make sure your existing alarms are working properly. All bedrooms should have smoke alarms as fires often start within bedrooms.
You can find out more about smoke alarms and the legislation at qfes.qld.gov.au.
It is also important that all families put together a Fire Escape Plan. You can read all about how to do that here.