7 ways to minimise the risk of a fire in your home

7 ways to minimise the risk of a fire in your home
7 ways to minimise the risk of a fire in your home

With the mercury continuing to fall and households turning up their heating appliances, it is vital to ensure your smoke alarms are working. More than 12,000 household fires broke out in homes last year, but concerningly, a recent survey by comparethemarket.com.au reveals 49% of people living in Australia don’t check their smoke alarms every month, as recommended by NSW Rural Fire Service.

Working smoke alarms are a necessity all year round, but more so during winter when heating appliances are used. NSW Fire and Rescue warns that the chance of home fire doubles for those who don’t have a functioning smoke alarm. To help minimise the risk of fire danger at home, here are 7 tips to reduce the risk of fire in your house.

Replace smoke alarms at least once every 10 years

The accumulation of dust, insects and electrical corrosion in smoke alarm units can cause them to become damaged and not operate effectively after 10 years. To check the expiry date on your unit, Australian Standard 3786 (the standard for smoke alarms in Australia) ensures there is a serial or batch number labelled on the device. For example, 2107 may mean that a device was manufactured in the 21st week of 2007. If you can’t see how old your smoke alarm is, contact the manufacturer or supplier.

Consider installing photoelectric smoke alarms

Ionisation and photoelectric are the two main types of smoke alarms used in residential properties. The advantage of photoelectric smoke alarms is that they can detect fires in the smouldering phase before flames break out. This early detection can minimise the fire damaging property or harming occupants, as photoelectric alarms will respond within three to five minutes compared with up to 20 minutes for ionisation alarms to do the same.

Test smoke detectors regularly

Comparethemarket.com.au found that almost one in 10 people living in Australia (9%) admitted that they’d had a smoke alarm that didn’t work for up to three months – due to them disconnecting or removing the battery in their alarm. It’s a good idea to put a recurring reminder in your calendar to ensure you don’t forget to check your smoke alarm regularly. Queensland and WA encourage residents to check their smoke alarms on April 1 as a friendly reminder – but it’s advised that smoke alarms are tested monthly. If the alarm doesn’t work, then you will need to replace it immediately.

Be careful of overloading power boards

Plugging too many devices into a power board or letting dust build up in unused points can cause electrical faults. Be sure to check regularly that all plugs are firmly fixed into power boards and that they are adequately ventilated. Also, keep a keen eye out for signs of damage. Many modern power boards are fitted with a surge protector, and trip switches in household electricity boxes reduce but don’t eliminate the risk of electrical faults.

Attend stovetops and open flames while in use

Kitchens are a high-risk area for house fires to start, so don’t let any non-cooking flammable items near the oven or stove, such as tea towels, oven mitts, or cookbooks. Also, be careful of wearing clothes with loose-fitting sleeves in the kitchen for this same reason. Additionally, ensure gas ovens are always turned off to prevent gas leaks or toxin exposure, as smoke damage may not be covered by your insurance unless you have accidental cover included in your home and contents insurance policy.

Keep any chemicals and flammable items stored safely

Set aside a cold, dark, and secure place for flammable products or chemicals to make sure they are kept away from heat. Combustible materials, such as paint or gasoline, should be sealed in their original containers. If you have a lawnmower, it’s best to refuel in the open during colder weather. 

Have a home escape plan in place

As recommended by state fire services, a fire evacuation plan is essential for every household. The evacuation plan should be made clear to everyone and must be revised if moving to a new house. If you live in a multi-story building, the building owner is required to display a fire evacuation plan in plain sight that shows where your ‘assembly area’ is located.

By conducting regular maintenance on smoke alarm units and adhering to these safety precautions, you can significantly reduce the risk of household fire danger this winter. For those who want to protect valuable assets, in case the unexpected occurs, home and contents insurance can provide peace of mind. Always read the Product Disclosure Statement to know what you are covered for and be aware of any exclusions that apply.

Got any other suggestions about how you can prevent a fire in your home? Let us know in the comments.

Abigail Koch

Abigail Koch

Abigail Koch is a household savings expert at Compare the Market. Abigail provides her expertise on various ways Aussies can reduce their bills and household expenses. Having a young family herself, Abigail is passionate about empowering consumers to seek out the best providers and insurance policies to suit their lifestyle and needs.

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