Home Fire Safety: Prevent House Fires in Winter

Statistics reveal that almost half of all home fires are started in the kitchen and 43% of all fire fatalities occur in winter. The key to reducing the risk of fire occurring in your home and to surviving a house fire is being prepared. Everyone in your household should understand what risks there are in your home and what to do to minimise them.

Winter is traditionally the most dangerous time of the year for home fires.  A fire can take hold in just minutes, but taking simple fire prevention steps takes only seconds.

PROTECT YOUR HOME WITH OUR HOME FIRE SAFETY KITS

Is your home fire safe for winter?

We recommend this simple safety checklist to help keep homes fire safe this winter. Make sure you and everyone in your household follows the following safety advice:

  • Most importantly, have an adequate number of suitable smoke alarms installed throughout your home and make sure that you test them regularly.
  • Make sure you and all your family know two safe ways out of every room in your home.
  • Have a written home escape plan in case of fire and practice it regularly.
  • Never ever leave cooking unattended.
  • If you have a fireplace in your home make sure the chimney is clean.
  • If you have a fireplace always place a screen in front of it when in use.
  • Check electric blankets for damage or frayed cords before placing on the bed.
  • Take care to keep curtains, tablecloths and bedding away from portable heaters.
  • Keep wet clothing at least 1 metre from heaters or fireplaces and never leave unattended.
  • If you use a clothes dryer make sure you clean the lint filter each and every time you use it.
  • Only use one appliance per power point and switch off when not in use.
  • Always extinguish candles or any other open flames before going to bed.
  • Always handle candles or any other open flame with care.
  • Store matches or lighters in a secure place not accessible to young children.

Winter Fire Safety Tips

  • To test an electric blanket lay it flat on top of the bed, then switch it on for five minutes before putting it on the bed for use to confirm it is okay.
  • Use only authorised installers of fixed heating appliances.
  • Oil, gas or wood heating units may require a yearly maintenance check.
  • Only use fuses of recommended rating and install an electrical safety switch.
  • If possible, in the kitchen keep a fire extinguisher and fire blanket placed near the exit.
  • Never leave burning candles or any open flame unattended.

FRNSW data reveals that of the 281* fire deaths that occurred over the past 10 years, 177 occurred in a home. Of those, 63 per cent, on average, occurred in the five months from May to September. Last year, that figure was 80 per cent.

67 per cent of fire fatalities were male and more than 40 per cent of all fatalities occurred in the 30 to 59 years age group and the leading causes of fatal home fires, the majority of which were preventable, were heaters and electrical equipment/wiring (20 per cent), smoking materials (20 per cent) and matches or lighters (5 per cent). Complacency and inaction also contribute to house fires – a lot of people seem to adopt the ‘it won’t happen to me’ attitude and as a result they ignore the fire risks in their own home.

So don’t be complacent this winter. Avoiding a fire in the home is as simple as turning off heaters and keeping clothing at least 1m from them; not overloading power points; and not leaving cooking and other open flame materials such as cigarettes and candles unattended. And it’s vital that you always supervise children.

There are a number of fast, easy things that you can do to reduce fire risks in the home to protect yourself and your family from fire this winter.

Winter fire safety tips:

  • Place a fire extinguisher and fire blanket in the kitchen near the exit and turn off the stove before leaving the kitchen
  • Portable heaters need to be at least one metre away from curtains, tablecloths and bedding – switch them off when going to bed
  • Make sure power points aren’t overloaded
  • Put out naked flames such as candles before leaving the room
  • Faulty electric blankets can easily cause fires – make sure you check them before use each winter
  • Clean the lint filter of the clothes dryer each time before use. Synthetic clothes can produce static electricity and the heat generated from the drying process can also ignite built up lint
  • Make sure you have working smoke alarms on every level of the home
  • Practice your escape plan regularly with the whole family.
  • For more advice, contact your nearest fire station and speak to the experts in winter fire safety.

Why are there more domestic fires during winter?

With the arrival of cooler weather, appliances such as electric blankets and heaters get pulled out of storage and plugged in around many Queensland homes.

These common appliances, as well as clothes dryers, fireplaces and braziers help keep us comfortable through the cold months of winter, but misuse, faulty wiring and leaving them unattended can lead to preventable fires and potential tragedy.

Who is at risk?

Some people in our communities are at more risk of dying in a house fire at any time of the year, including:

  • People aged 65 years and over;
  • Children aged between zero and five years;
  • People not in the workforce;
  • People living in rental properties; and
  • Adults affected by alcohol.

However, everyone’s risk increases over the winter months and extra care and precautions need to be taken.

What can you do to reduce your risk?

With research showing that more people die in house fires during the winter months than any other time of the year, it is important to protect yourself – so the start of the chilly season is the ideal time to install and maintain smoke alarms. QFRS recommends installing photo-electric type alarms and changing batteries at least once a year.  Set a key date such as a birthday or anniversary, as a reminder to change your smoke alarm batteries.

Security bars and screen doors can block your escape in a fire. You need smoke alarms and a home escape plan to ensure you don’t get trapped by your home security.

Simple steps such as developing a escape plan and keeping smoke alarms in working order can give you the vital seconds you need to survive a fire. Don’t have a home fire escape plan? We can help. Book a FREE Safehome visit with Queensland firefighters here.

Firefighters also recommend that you adopt some simple safety habits such as:

  • Turning electric blankets off before getting into bed;
  • Ensuring appliances are turned off at the wall and home fires extinguished when not in use;
  • Getting your appliances checked for frayed and damaged cords by a licensed electrician;
  • Keeping clothing at least one metre away from heaters when drying inside;
  • When using a clothes dryer, make sure the lint filter is cleaned out after every cycle. Remember to clean behind the dryer and the exhaust port at least every 6 months

Other Resources:

  1. http://www.nfpa.org/categoryList.asp?categoryID=2103&URL=Safety%20Information/For%20consumers/Holidays/&cookie_test=1
  2. http://www.cheshirefire.gov.uk/public-safety/home-fire-safety-advice/winter-fire-safety
  3. http://www.fire.ca.gov/communications/communications_firesafety_holiday.php
  4. http://solutionsforyourlife.ufl.edu/hot_topics/families_and_consumers/winter_fire_safety.html
  5. http://www.fire.nsw.gov.au/page.php?id=320
  6. http://www.weathersafety.ohio.gov/WinterFireSafetyTips.aspx
  7. http://www.fiprecan.ca/?section=2&show=winterSafety
  8. http://www.stcharlesil.gov/news/2013/01/03/winter-fire-safety-tips
  9. http://answers.usa.gov/system/selfservice.controller?CONFIGURATION=1000&PARTITION_ID=1&CMD=VIEW_ARTICLE&USERTYPE=1&LANGUAGE=en&COUNTRY=US&ARTICLE_ID=10369
  10.  http://www.biloxi.ms.us/firedepartment/firesafety.asp

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