People might think that house fires are non-existent in winter because they don’t make the 6pm news. But they can happen. These tips may help keep your family and house safe during the cold months.

Give me the main points

  • House fires over winter can be a bigger threat to you than summer bushfires.
  • Stay alert over winter. Make sure you do regular checks around your house to make sure you’re fire-safe.
  • Preventative measures are usually quick, cheap and easy to take. Don’t hesitate to put in a little effort to keep you and your family safe.

While there've been some devastating bushfires over the past decade, figures from Allianz show most fire claims are from fires that start in the home. National Claims Manager, Bob Gelling, says they receive more fire claims during winter than summer.

So as the temperature drops, make sure your most prized possessions are protected. Here are some tips to keep your home fire-safe this winter.

Install smoke alarms

Smoke alarms save lives. The Metropolitan Fire Brigade says 26% more people suffer serious injuries or death if a fire occurs in a dwelling without a smoke alarm.

Keep the following in mind:

  • Alarms need to comply with Australian standards.
  • Batteries should be changed annually.
  • Test alarms monthly to check they’re working.

Install safety switches

They stop appliances exploding and save lives by preventing electrocution. Safety switches detect faulty appliances and automatically turn off the power to prevent fires and injury.

Have an escape plan

It’s more than just get down low and go, go, go. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Plan for multiple safety routes in case one way out is blocked.
  • Choose a family member to run to the neighbour and call 000 (if mobile phones aren’t handy).
  • Choose a meeting spot in case you get separated during your escape.
  • Have a ladder handy for two-storey homes.

Keep an eye on candles

Although they make the house smell lovely, they can cause havoc if not properly used.

  • Keep lit candles in sight.
  • Don’t place near curtains or anything flammable.
  • Always use candle holders.
  • Extinguish when leaving the room.

Check your party decorations

Everyone loves a good party but you don’t want to remember it because your house caught fire. Here’s what you need to look for:

  • Check party light cords for fraying wires and broken plugs.
  • Don’t overload electrical sockets (this rule applies for all electrical items).
  • Don’t run cords under rugs.
  • Don’t place streamers, cardboard signs or any cut outs next to flames or electrical appliances.

Cook safely

We all love to eat but it’s crucial to keep the cooking process safe.

  • Don’t leave your cooking unattended.
  • Wear tight-fitted sleeves so they don’t catch fire from the stove.
  • Turn handles away from your body.
  • Keep flammable items away from heat sources.
  • Keep a fire blanket in your kitchen.

Look after outdoor gas heaters

Dining outside during winter can be romantic, especially with a heater nearby but keep in mind the following:

  • Keep the heater on a stable well ventilated surface.
  • Steer clear from overhead coverings such as sun shades.
  • Never use inside or in an enclosed area. They could release carbon monoxide, an odourless gas that can make you pass out or die.

Take care of heat bags

Although they will make us snug in bed or on the couch, they come with a warning label. Never overheat because they can catch fire.

When heating them, leave a glass of water in the microwave to keep the bag moist. Don’t place in confined spaces like your bed because it can overheat and catch fire.

Place portable heaters somewhere safe

These heaters will help take the chill out of your home but keep them well clear off curtains, tablecloths and bedding. Also if you’re drying wet clothes, keep them at least one metre away.

Dust off electrical blankets

Before putting your electric blanket on your bed make sure you dust it off. Check for frayed cords or damaged wiring because they could short-circuit and start a fire.

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