By Jeremy Rochow
Published: Thursday, May 14, 2020
Rain clouds are gathering, the mercury is dropping and we’re preparing to light the fire or switch on the heater.
Many of us are social distancing, which means we’re spending a lot more time at home than we usually would.
If you’re working from home, you might be plugging in more electrical items than usual, including your heater.
Maybe you’ve turned to hobbies like baking or cooking to pass the time.
All of this could bring with it some fire hazards. Here are a few tips to make sure your house is safe from fire this winter.
1. Don’t get burnt by your heater
It’s likely you’ll be using your heater more than ever this winter if you’re working from home or self-isolating.
However, heaters can be dangerous if they’re not used properly. In fact, between 2014 and 2018, the Metropolitan Fire Service (MFS) and Country Fire Service (CFS) battled 139 house fires linked to heaters and open fires.
If you’ve got a heater installed in your home, make sure it’s in good working order and get it serviced before more cold weather arrives.
Portable heaters need to be checked as well. Make sure yours isn’t faulty and the power plug is still in good working order.
If you’re concerned about the condition of the heater, it might be a good idea to purchase a new one.
Look for a heater that has a timer and will turn off after a certain period. You can also find one that’ll automatically turn off if knocked over.
One of the leading causes of home heater fires is items like beds sheets, clothes and curtains catching alight.
Keep anything flammable at least 2 metres away from the appliance. If you’re leaving the house, make sure the heater is turned off.
2. Get a chimney sweep
You might think chimney sweeps are from a bygone era – maybe you envisage Mary Poppins and chimney sweep Bert dancing through London.
However, if you have a fireplace instead of a heater, you’ll need a chimney sweep to clean your flue or chimney at least once a year before winter.
They’ll remove leftover ash and make sure there aren’t any blockages that could potentially cause a house fire.
3. Check smoke alarms
You should check your fire alarms when you change your clocks for daylight savings; however, as most timepieces change automatically these days, consider setting a reminder on your phone calendar.
4. Choose where you charge
Have you ever left your phone or laptop to charge while it’s sitting on the couch or your bed? If you have, you might want to stop.
Electronics get hot while they’re charging and can become a potential fire hazard.
The MFS suggests laptops, mobile phones and tablets should be charged on a non-flammable surface in a well-ventilated area.
5. No piggybacks
What is piggybacking? We’re not talking about when a child rides on someone’s shoulders or back. Those are still fine.
Piggybacking is when you plug multiple power boards into one another to create more outlets for your devices.
It might sound like a good idea when you’re running out of power points in your home office, but it can be extremely dangerous.
Beware of overloading your power board when you’re setting up your home office.
You could damage your electronics or worse, cause an electrical fire.
While we’re talking about power cords, make sure they’re never covered under rugs or blankets.
6. Fire safety in the kitchen
The sourdough bread social media craze has taken off over the past couple of months and it’s no surprise people are taking up baking or cooking when they’re spending more time at home.
However, there are plenty of potential fire hazards in a kitchen.
Oil is one of the leading causes of kitchen fires. While in the heat of the moment, it can be tempting to throw water on an oil fire, but this will cause the flames to spread.
The MFS recommends home cooks install a dry chemical powder fire extinguisher and fire blanket in their kitchen, which can both be used to control an oil fire.
8. Plan for an emergency
While you obviously want to avoid a house fire altogether by taking preventative measures, sometimes accidents happen, and you’ll want to make sure you’re ready.
Sit down with your family and prepare a home fire escape plan.
Make sure each family member knows what to do if there’s a fire and ensure any home-security measures, such as window grilles and flyscreens, won’t prevent you escaping.