Fire Safety Tips For Winter

15th Apr 2021

What can start a house fire?

 Colder weather is on the way and wood fires and electric blankets are coming out of storage. So now is a great time to review your home fire safety procedures. According to Fire and Rescue NSW, 43% of all fire fatalities happen in winter.

  • 45% of house fires start in the kitchen
  • 9% start in the bedroom
  • 5% start in the lounge room
  • 4% start in the laundry

Does home & contents insurance cover fires?

Yes. Home and contents insurance policies should cover damage caused to your home building (with home insurance) and your belongings and home fixtures (with contents insurance) by accidental fire, bushfire, and other fire starters such as lightning strike or heatwave.

This is different to cover for fusion damage (a.k.a. motor burnout) which is not available as standard on every policy. Fusion damage cover is for damage caused by the electric motor burning out in your household appliances. This cover may be included as standard, or it may be an optional cover that you purchase in addition to your Home & Contents or Contents Only policy.

Some items used around the home in winter may become a hazard if not used properly or checked regularly. Electric blankets and heaters may cause burns or other injuries, while other faulty electrical products that overheat can give electric shocks or even cause a fire.

Here are some winter safety tips for you to do around the home to help prevent these events occurring.

Smoke alarms

When asleep you lose your sense of smell, and a working smoke alarm will provide you with the early warning alarm and time to escape. To ensure your smoke alarms are working do the following:

  • Do monthly tests on your smoke alarms
  • Make sure you replace the alarm battery every year
  • Make sure to replace your smoke alarm every 10 years and when moving house check the smoke alarm date of manufacture, displayed on the alarm, and change if necessary.

Heaters

Heaters need to be checked every year, no matter their age. Make sure there are no exposed wires or loose connections on the cords. Only use one heating appliance per power point and switch it off at the power point when not in use.

Gas heaters must be vented adequately. The carbon monoxide produced by gas heaters is odourless, colourless and deadly. Therefore, it is very important to have your gas heaters serviced regularly by a qualified tradesperson, this will ensure that there are no carbon monoxide leaks.

There are some signs that may indicate that there is something wrong with a gas heater, including a difficulty with ignition, yellow flames, unusual smells or noisy or inoperable fans.

If you have an unflued gas heater, the toxic gases can be released directly into the home. You should  never use an unflued gas heater in a bedroom, bathroom or small room without permanent ventilation.

Here are some extra heater use safety tips:

  • Heaters should always be on a flat and level surface
  • Never use an outdoor gas heater or BBQ inside your home, these are for outdoor use only
  • Keep heaters clear from flammable items. Such as curtains, bedding, furniture and clothes. A minimum of one-metre clearance is recommended
  • Don’t put your portable heaters in places where people or pets could easily knock them over and always watch children and pets around heaters when they are in use.

Electric Blankets

Faulty electric blankets can overheat, cause an electric shock, spark and potentially cause a fire. Therefore, it should be checked before use each year. Check for frayed cords and fabric, exposed elements, damaged cords or scorch marks. If you find any of this damage, you need to dispose of the electric blanket immediately.

Here are some extra electric blanket safety tips:

  • Never sleep with your electric blanket on. Use it to warm the bed and then turn it off
  • Don’t put heavy items on your bed while the electric blanket is turned on
  • Always roll your blanket up to store as folding it can damage the element wires inside the blanket. When you take it out of storage and use it for the first time, lay it flat on the bed and check for hot spots as it warms up.

A little bit of planning, extra care and checking over appliances will go a long way to staying warm and safe this winter.