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 colder 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 ensure 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 yourself and your family safe.

While there have 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 the company receives 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 per cent more people suffer serious injuries or death if a fire occurs in a dwelling without a smoke alarm.

Keep the following in mind:

  • Ensure your alarms comply with Australian standards.
  • Change batteries annually.
  • Test alarms monthly to check they’re working.

Install safety switches

Safety switches stop appliances exploding and save lives by preventing electrocution. They 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 other essentials 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, candles can cause havoc if not properly used.

  • Keep lit candles in sight.
  • Don’t place near curtains or flammable materials.
  • 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 your clothes 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 of overhead coverings such as sun shades.
  • Never use inside or in an enclosed area. Heaters 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, heat bags come with a warning: never overheat them 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 the bag 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 of curtains, tablecloths and bedding. Also if you’re drying wet clothes, keep them at least one metre away from portable heaters.

Dust off electric 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 cause your blanket to short-circuit and start a fire.

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