Statistics about home fires reveal several interesting things. Firstly, they show that half of home fires originate in the kitchen area. This is, for the most part, to be expected because of the various cooking activities that are carried out in the kitchen. But then, the statistics also reveal that close to a half of all fatalities related to home fires, a staggering 43%, occur in one season – winter. Thankfully, there is something you can do to minimize the risk of a home fire and enhance chances of surviving such a fire if it occurs; and that is to be well prepared. This is also a question of getting everyone in your household to appreciate the fire risks. Further still, it is all about getting all members of your household to know the steps to take to minimize the fire risks.
Most of the fire incidents that result in fatalities tend to be home fires. As we have also noted, winter is one season when the incidence of these home fires seems to go up substantially. Often, the causes of the fires turn out to be things like electrical faults and faulty appliances. Sometimes, something as simple as washing coming into contact with a heater can lead to a nasty fire. These fires can cause considerable structural damage and in the worst cases, leads to injuries or even fatalities to family members.
We have to emphasise the fact that being well prepared does reduce the risk of a fire, and increase chances of survival in case a fire does indeed occur. You also have to know that this is something that should involve all family members: in terms of getting them to appreciate the risks, and getting them to know what to do in various situations.
The three most common causes of fires include:
- Kitchen accidents, or distractions in the cooking process.
- Fireplace incidents and issues related to heaters.
- A range of different electrical faults.
The following statistics really show how major these 3 causes of fire are. Consider that in the year 2008, 31.3% of residential structural fires were attributed to cooking equipment, with electrical faults accounting for 9.6% of the fires. In the same duration of time, heating systems were blamed for 14.2% of the fires.
It is not all gloom though, as there are simple measures you can take, to reduce your family’s exposure to the fire risks. If you take the trouble of regularly checking the identifiable risk areas, you will have done a lot, in terms of minimizing the risk of fire. If you put a smoke alarm in place, and go ahead to prepare a home fire escape plan, you’d certainly be doing a lot to ward off fire’s devastating effects.
NSW Fire Fact
4,545 fires were attended to by the NSW Fire Brigades in the 2008/2009 period. Of the 4,545 fires, 1,054 were attributable to heat sources that were not attended to (examples being foodstuffs left on stoves). Of the 4,545 fires, a further 651 were attributable to electrical faults – specifically the so called ‘short circuits.’ Of the 4,545 fire, 2,156 occurred in kitchens, with a remarkable 487 occurring in sleeping areas and 316 in lounge areas.
So, are you actually fire safe in your home?
To help you figure that out, the fire services have created a simple fire safety checklist.
- Firstly, you need to have an adequate number of smoke alarms installed. You need to ensure that these alarm systems are tested on a regular basis.
- You need to have a fire escape plan – that is written and know by all members of your household. You need to ensure that you practice it regularly.
- All locked doors should be readily accessible, in case of a fire (as you’d need to make use of them to escape).
- No open flames should EVER be left unattended. These include the seemingly benign open flames from candles and those from oil burners.
- You need to have habit of cleaning the lint filter in your clothes dryer every time the machine is used.
- Smoking in bed should be an absolute NO. It is something you should never do. Even out of bed, you should exercise a lot of caution if you are smoking and consuming an alcoholic drink at the same time. Alcohol does impair judgment.
- The heating appliances used in winter should be used with a lot of caution. Here we are looking at open fires (for those who use them), as well as electric blankets and heaters of all types.
- You must not overload electrical power points, and you need to create a habit of switching off electrical appliances when you are not using them.
- You need to ensure that young kids don’t have access to lighters and matches. You also need to ensure that you educate the kids about them (so that you can avoid a disaster, even if they somehow access them). Make a point of telling the kids that those are tools, and not toys and that only adults – and responsible adults at that – should use them.
- You need to exercise extreme caution with the storage of chemicals and fuels. Ideally, those should be stored in sheds or garages outside – and even in those out of the way places they should be responsibly stored. Machines like edgers and mowers should never be refueled while hot. The refueling of these machines should be done out in the open: not within an enclosed space.
- You need to make a habit of checking and ensuring that your electric or gas cooker, or your wood BBQ is safe to use, before proceeding to light it. Such equipment should only be used by responsible adults, and further still, such equipment should be attended to throughout, whenever in use.
- People living in areas that are prone to bushfire should take several special precautions. One of those is the precaution of clearing the ground around their homes of leaves and all other types of inflammable litter. The other special precaution is that of cleaning gutters regularly.