With the east coast of Australia experiencing some very cold weather, most people are trying to stay warm in whatever way they can. Personally, I love portable heaters! Sitting on the couch watching a movie with a blanket and portable heater is a pleasure I love to indulge. When I was a kid, my mother would always complain about the electricity, but now I think the extra dollars are well worth it! On the other hand, portable heaters can also be quite dangerous so they need to be handled with care. You certainly don’t want to get too close! But also if they’re left unattended, children or pets can easily tip them over which can potentially burn down your house. With the winter months finally upon us, it’s probably a good time to review some home fire safety tips to ensure you and your family stay safe this season.
Only very few people in Australia have central heating, so naturally the next best thing is my favourite portable heaters. While they’re great at keeping us warm, they are the leading cause of fires during the winter months. They’re several points that you need to be aware of when buying and using a portable heater:
- Always purchase a heater that has an automatic shutoff feature
- Any gas-fueled heaters needs to have the correction ventilation, and never put unvented gas heaters in bathrooms or bedrooms
- Always turn off a heater when you leave the room
- There should be a minimum distance of 2 metres between a heater and any flammable materials
- Never leave children or pets unsupervised arounds heaters
- Avoid using extension cords with heaters due to the fact that they use a high amount of current which can melt the electrical cords
- When using a gas heater, always light the match before turning on the gas
It’s also extremely important that you check your heating appliances at least several times a year for any obvious damage around the heater itself and the power cords also.
Fireplaces are also very dangerous so caution should always be exercised. If you have a fireplace, check that the chimney is clean and not blocked before you start using it. Furthermore, you should always place a fire screen in front of the fireplace to stop any embers from escaping. When using a fireplace, never burn rubbish such as plastic or foam as they contain toxic chemicals that can cause damage to your respiratory tract. In addition to this, never burn any wood that is painted or treated with copper chrome arsenate (CCA) as they also contain toxic chemicals.
There’s nothing better than getting into a warm bed on a cold night! To ensure you’re using your electric blankets safely though, check that they are in a relatively good condition and they haven’t been recalled by checking the Recalls Australia website. I was extremely surprised to find out that there have been approximately 400,000 electric blankets that have been deemed unsafe since 2010, according to the ACCC.1 Faulty electric blankets can overheat and start a fire within minutes. Additionally, you should only use an electric blanket before you go to bed and always turn it off when you’re under the sheets.
General Fire Safety Tips
The following lists a handful of tips to keep you and your family safe during the winter months:
- Ensure that your smoke alarms are working by testing them on a monthly basis. You’ll also need to change the batteries about once a year, and remember that smoke alarms need to be replaced every 10 years;
- Ensure you and your family are familiar with various evacuation routes in different areas of your home;
- Never put underwear with metal lining in the clothes drying, and remember to clean the lint every time you use your clothes dryer;
- Never use an oven to heat a room, and never attempt to dry clothes using an oven, heater, or fireplace;
- Never leave heaters or candles unattended, especially around children and pets
- Store lighters and matches in a place where children can’t access them
House fires can ignite very easily from a variety of causes, so fire safety experts recommend that each home has a multi-purpose fire extinguisher and fire blanket as an extra layer of safety. Extinguishing a small fire before it intensifies is far better than having to deal with potential property and financial loss. For a range of multi-purpose fire extinguishers and fire blankets, visit King Fire Protection Services at https://www.kingfire.com.au/