Australia is definitely a country that will always be a strong contender for the bush fire capital of the world.
The bush fire season in Australia seems to be starting earlier and finishing later from year to year. There are extraordinary days in winter when the mercury rises abnormally high, and authorities release bush fire alerts which seem out of the blue. City dwellers amongst us mostly feel removed from fire threats like these, thinking that these firestorms will never be a worry.
Unfortunately, this perspective is a little naive, as urban fires are a threat on a daily basis.
Here we’ll look at the riskiest rooms and behaviours for fires in your home.
In The Kitchen
The kitchen is the prime place for fires to start. It’s as combustible as a chemical lab. After all, the fire (on the stove) is already going! All it takes is stepping out of the kitchen to answer the phone or attend to something in another room and the flame gets out of hand. Accidents can happen before you even realise the area is unsafe.
Here are a few things you can do
Simply accept that when you are cooking on the stove, attending to it, is a safety priority for you and your family or housemates. Never leave your cooking unattended. Always turn off a stovetop before you leave the kitchen.
Turning your pot handles inwards not only keeps them away from the little hands of your children, but it also stops you knocking pots around dangerously with elbows or other parts of your body.
Don’t stand too close to the stove when you cook, and especially keep your clothing away from heat. If you have long hair, tie it back! Even curtains and tea towels near to stovetop are a fire hazard.
Many kitchen staples are highly flammable including olive oil, other cooking oils, cleaning chemicals and pressure packs. Keep them stored away from the heat of your stove.
Keep a fire extinguisher or a fire blanket in your kitchen, and learn how to use them. These are available in most hardware stores.
Heat oils very carefully and slowly. A flambé is impressive, but best saved for the cooking shows on TV, not for Monday night’s dinner in front of your family.
Keep a fire extinguisher or a fire blanket in your kitchen, and learn how to use them. These are available in most hardware stores. Make sure you have some practice using the fire blanket, or understand the extinguisher instructions. Don’t be caught reading the instructions after a fire has started.
If you have nothing else, at least know where you keep the flour. Flour can smother a fire before it spreads throughout the kitchen and can save you in a pinch.
Electricity: a Potential Fire Emergency
How often do you clean your electrical appliances, really? Crumby toasters, greasy range hoods and furry looking filters on dryers are all major fuel for fires.
Jody Lamb, of RepairClinic.com says “a dryer’s entire venting system should be cleaned out from the inside of the dryer to the outside vent cap at least once per year. Professionals can be hired for this job but it’s usually a simple do-it-yourself job. A long, 20-foot cleaning brush enables homeowners to easily remove lint buildup from within the entire tube from the back of the dryer to the outside of a home”
Cleaning these appliances is not appealing, and tends to be overlooked in our busy households. A quick clean every few days is easier than a major clean every few weeks, and much safer for you.
Other potential fire hazards in your home are the cords attached to your electrical appliances. How often do we really check these? A quick audit of your household electrical cords a few times every year is one of the best ways to prevent a fire emergency in your home.
This is especially important in the lead-up to winter and summer, when we are often pulling our dusty electrical heaters, fans and portable air coolers out of storage. If they need repairing, don’t do it yourself, electrical cords are not for a DIY weekend project.
Or, treat yourself to some new appliances if they are particularly old and damaged.
Keli Wilson, Founder and Director of Communications for AlertID, recommends: “your electrical wiring is checked by an electrician to ensure your home is at the lowest possible risk for fire.”
Your electrical wiring is checked by an electrician to ensure your home is at the lowest possible risk for fire.
Finally, check that the wires on your electric blankets are flat and unbroken.
Other electrical appliances that overheat quickly include light globes, computers, your kids’ gaming consoles, TVs, DVD players, hair straighteners, hair dryers and any old VCRs that are still in use in your home. Always turn these off when not in use.
Another area where you can really maximise safety in your home is to check out your power board situation. Double adaptors and power boards plugged into each other can lead to electrical overload. Don’t assume that safety switches will automatically activate to prevent this.
Electricity and water do not mix. You know this; you learned it as a child in school. But as adults, it’s too easy to become complacent. Too many home fires have started this way. Wear rubber-soled shoes on wet floors and find your way inside if you’re outside during an electrical storm.
The Great Outdoors
Australians adore their barbeques. Have fun, but follow some safety tips.
First, never leave your barbeque unattended or in the care of kids. Alinta Energy, Australian gas energy expert, shares tips about how to keep your barbeque a safe zone.
Check the expiration date on all gas cylinders. Before you use them each time, check the hoses to be sure they’re not cracked or ready to perish. If they are, replace immediately.
Patio heaters, which have become increasingly popular to use in the cooler months, should be used only on level ground and away from fabric shades and awnings.
If you’re a smoker or have smokers who live at your house: Are they dampening cigarette butts before throwing them away? Many smokers don’t. This is incredibly dangerous.
Too many tragedies occur in Australia every year due to simple complacency and irresponsibility regarding their use.
In addition to cigarettes, candles (very popular and nice for adding a little luxury in the home) are one of the top culprits for starting home fires. Keep all candles away from curtains and open windows, and never leave them unattended.
The final points regarding home fire safety must go to the use of heaters and open fires. Too many tragedies occur in Australia every year due to simple complacency and irresponsibility regarding their use. If you have heaters and open fires in use in your home, you are responsible for the safety of everyone under your roof. Clean your flues and chimneys annually.
Keep all bedding, toys and curtains at least one metre from heaters and fireplaces. Secure fire screens should be in use at all times, and children should never be around these sources of heat unsupervised.
There are many more ways you can keep your home safe. Smoke alarms, fire blankets, home fire escape plans and extinguishers are all necessities we should become comfortable using.
The website Fire & Rescue NSW is a wealth of detailed information on how to strengthen your home against the threat of fires. This site has wonderful tips on how to bolster your home against fire before you leave for a holiday. It also has excellent advice for those of us living in bush land for the bushfire season, and for the nomads among us who love to get out and see Australia in our caravans and motor homes.
When it comes to fires in your home, it is not about being scared; it is simply about being prepared.
If you are wanting to protect yourself from financial loss of home and contents due to fire, be sure to get a quote with Budget Direct home and contents insurance.