It's a fact of life that accidents happen, and household fires and burns are one of the most common household mishaps, often with the most tragic results.
Already this month, there have been a tragically high number of fire deaths throughout Australia, and research shows that the winter months from June to September are usually the worst for fire fatalities, with 95% of fire-related deaths happening during this period*.
But there are some simple and inexpensive methods you can adopt around your home to make it as safe as possible for you and your family.
Your risk of death in a housefire is reduced by more than half if a properly maintained smoke alarm is installed, and for around $10 this is your family's cheapest and best line of defence if fire breaks out in your home.
It is important to remember however, that although your smoke alarm will give you an early warning, one of the key reasons people lose their lives in house fires is because they can't find their way out.
Thick smoke, minimal visibility and the effects of smoke inhalation can cause you to panic, lose your bearings and become trapped in your own home.
Take the time to sit down and assess your home, and draw up a home escape plan for you and your family - it will be half an hour well spent in a emergency where every second counts?
Drawing up an escape plan
- Start with a floor diagram of the home
- Make sure that everyone knows the sound of the smoke alarm and what to do if a fire occurs
- Plan escape routes. Identify a primary escape room out of every room, then pick a secondary route in case the first is blocked by fire (always plan two ways out of each room)
- With an increasing number of houses protected by bolt-locked doors, and other security measures, it is important that you keep keys in an easily accessible place, close to doors or security screens, so in the event of a fire, you can find them and get out
- Select and indicate a meeting place outside of the home (e.g. the letterbox) and once you are out, stay out
- Dial triple zero (000) - the number to call in an emergency - from a neighbour's home or mobile phone
Other home fire safety tips for the winter months include:
- If your dryer use has increased, it is important you clean your lint filter out regularly, and that the dryer is not left unattended for long periods of time as garments may become overheated and ignite.
- Turn electric blankets off before getting into bed, and ensure all appliances are turned off when not in use, not left in standby mode.
- Take care to keep clothing, curtains, tablecloths and bedding away from portable heaters and never leave them unattended.
- Check your appliances for frayed and damaged cords and don't overload powerpoints.
- Remember that things around the home that adults don't see as hazardous can be dangerous for small children, including pot-belly stoves, woodburners and braziers which can give nasty burns to small hands.
These are just a few tips from firefighters to help keep you and your family fire safe over the potentially dangerous winter months, for further information and advice check out your State's fire service website using the links below.
A.C.T. - www.firebrigade.act.gov.au
New South Wales - www.nswfb.nsw.gov.au and www.bushfire.nsw.gov.au
Northern Territory - www.nt.gov.au/pfes/
Queensland - www.fire.qld.gov.au and www.ruralfire.qld.gov.au
South Australia - www.samfs.sa.gov.au and www.cfs.org.au
Tasmania - www.fire.tas.gov.au
Victoria - www.mfb.vic.gov.au and www.cfa.vic.gov.au
Western Australia - www.fesa.wa.gov.au
* Queensland Fire and Rescue Service research
Article kindly supplied by Sarah McCormack, Queensland Fire and Rescue Service