The home fire safety statistics are grim. More than 900 Australians died in preventable house fires between July 2003 and June 2017, a study by Risk Frontiers and the National Fire Brigade of Victoria found.
More people perish yearly in house fires than through storms, floods, and bush fires combined, according to a study by Macquarie University and Bushfire and Natural Hazards Co-operative Research Centre.
Most deaths occur at night between June and August, and the most common victims are young children, elderly and disabled people, and people living alone. Fatal fires are more likely to occur in the living room or bedroom than in any other room in the house.
The victims are more likely to die of smoke inhalation than the heat of the fire or actual flames.
Things You Need to Be Safe
House fires are almost always preventable. These simple steps will save lives.
If you don’t already have them, invest in smoke detectors, and test them every few months.
If they have a replaceable battery change them every 12 months.
Ideally, you’ll have a fire detector on every level of your home, including the basement. There should also be a smoke alarm in every bedroom and outside every sleeping area.
Since smoke rises, they should be on the ceiling or high on the walls. To make sure they work correctly, keep them away from ceiling fans, windows, and vents.
The smoke detector in the kitchen should be at least 3 metres away from the stove.
Also, invest in at least one fire extinguisher and learn how to use it. Fire extinguisher testing is important to make sure that it is in the correct working order.
The kitchen is a good place for a fire extinguisher since this presents increased fire risks due to cooking. Ideally, you’ll have one on every floor of your house.
Having a fire blanket is a good idea, too. These non-flammable “blankets” are made of heat-resistant material and can withstand temperatures up to 900 degrees. These can be used on fires involving cooking fats and oils.
Gently lay the blanket over the fire to deprive the fire of the oxygen it needs to burn.
Be Ready for a Fire
While you feel safe in your home, there’s no way of knowing how or when a fire will start. The best line of defence is to be prepared.
Make sure everyone, especially children and elderly people know to quickly leave the house if they hear a smoke detector sound the alarm.
Do regular fire drills with the entire family.
Show everyone two ways of escaping from a room. Jumping out a window is less dangerous than being trapped in a fire.
Have a meeting place outside, away from the burning house.
Tell everyone the first person out of the house should call 0-0-0 for help.
Have a Go Bag ready in case you can’t get back into the house for several hours. Keep it in an accessible place, and include cash, medicine, snacks to keep the kids busy, pet food, and harnesses and leashes.
Keep your important papers and treasured photos in a fire-resistant box. Take it with you if you can get to it quickly and easily.
Do not go back into the house. Your life is more valuable than anything you left behind.
If your clothes catch fire, drop, cover, and roll across the floor to extinguish the flames.
If the house is filling with smoke, get down low and crawl to a door. This should be part of your family fire drills, too.
The air is cleaner close to the floor, and the smoke is less likely to obscure your vision and cause disorientation and panic.
The Main Causes of House Fires
Your kitchen stove can be a fire waiting to happen. When it’s on, never leave it untended. And don’t forget to turn it off when you’re done cooking.
Make sure curtains and tea towels are far from the cooktop. And beware of long, flowing sleeves that could drift onto a burner.
Electric blankets are also a fire hazard. Turn yours off before you go to sleep or leave the house.
Faulty wiring is a fire hazard, too. Don’t run cords or cables under rugs, mats, or pillows.
Smoking in bed is more dangerous than you may think. A tiny ember of hot ash could fall off your cigarette onto your bedding and smoulder for hours before catching fire.
If you follow these safety tips you and your family will be much safer in your home.