As we rug up our houses for these cold winter months, the use of heating equipment such as heaters and electric blankets increases. It should not be forgotten however, that if these items are not used carefully, they can easily cause house fires. Fire safety throughout winter is just as important as summer.
Three fire engines were recently called to a house in Tauranga, New Zealand, where the house was filled with smoke, caused by an overheated wheat bag. The cause of this fire was a simple, a small wheat bag. Although very useful at keeping us warm throughout winter, wheat bags can be extremely hazardous when in contact with blankets or bedding.
In 2014, Queensland alone recorded 2,500 house fires throughout winter. A staggering 44% of these fires were caused within the kitchen area, and about a third were from cooking alone. The majority of these fires were caused by human activity, and not paying due attention to a very dangerous, yet avoidable situation.
The best way to avoid a house fire is to be aware of the main causes; the top two of which are cooking equipment and heating equipment. When cooking, if a pot or pan overheats or splatters grease, it can take seconds to cause a fire. Never leave the kitchen when cooking, or if you must, then make sure all hot plates and electricals are not left running unsupervised.
Heating equipment can also be extremely hazardous if left unaccompanied. When using a portable heater, make sure to keep it at least one metre away from anything flammable (including furniture, blankets and yourself) and never use a portable heater to dry shoes or clothes.
Most winter house fire causes are preventable. Below are a few tips on how to best avoid causing a fire:
- If you have a fireplace within your residence, make sure that when in use there is always a screen protecting the open flame and make sure that the chimney is kept clean and properly ventilated.
- Always handle candles with care and ensure that they have been extinguished before going to bed.
- Don’t keep your tea towels, oven mitts and other flammable items near the stove or cook-top.
In the case of a house fire occurring, it is important to know exactly what to do and how to react.
As soon as a smoke alarm is heard, an immediate reaction is necessary. You may only have a few seconds to safely escape, so make sure to ignore all secondary concerns (mobile phones, clothing etc.) and keep focused on staying alive.
It is best to have pre-planned a minimum of two possible exits from your house. Make sure all family members are aware of the exit ways, so that everyone is able to escape the premises quickly.
Once outside, do a head count to ensure that no one is missing. Once a headcount has been completed, call emergency services and make sure to remain calm so that the details you give can be understood clearly, and the appropriate help can be dispatched to your house immediately.
If someone is missing, it is best to wait for the emergency services to arrive to rescue the missing person, as returning to a fire is very dangerous.
For more information on winter Fire Safety, please contact Fire Safe ANZ.