By Raising Children Network
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Electrician installing smoke detector in hallway credit iStockphoto.com/sturti

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Fires can be caused by unattended cooking, smouldering cigarette butts, electrical faults, candles, and children playing with lighters and matches.
 
As a parent or carer, you can make your child’s environment safer by looking out for fire hazards and taking some simple home fire safety precautions.

Home fire safety checklist

This home fire safety checklist can help you get rid of fire hazards around your home.

Electrical appliances

  • Replace faulty or worn-out electrical appliances, and those with frayed cords.
  • If you need extra power outlets, talk to an electrician about having them installed. Avoid using power boards or double adaptors.
  • Clean the lint filter on your clothes dryer every time you use the dryer.
  • Let your clothes dryer finish its ‘cool-down’ cycle. This prevents overheating.
  • Make sure there’s airflow around your clothes dryer at all times.

Open fires and heaters

  • Enclose your open fire, pot-bellied stove, gas or electric heater with a guard. If the surface of the heater is so hot that you can’t put your hand on it for 10 seconds, it needs a guard. You can secure a guard by attaching it to the wall.
  • Clear space around your heater. Anything flammable – such as curtains, clothing, bedding and children’s toys – should never be within 1 m of your heater.
  • Turn off heaters at the power source. If you have a fireplace, extinguish the fire before you go to bed or leave your house.

Cooking – inside and out

  • Don’t leave cooking unattended on the stove. If deep-frying or using a wok, make sure flames can’t get into the fat, and keep an eye on the temperature of the oil.
  • Check the gas cylinder on your barbecue regularly. Before lighting the barbecue, check the cylinder’s expiry date. Check that the hose connections are tight, that there’s no leakage, and that the hose isn’t damaged or worn. Check the hose for signs of cracking.

And keep matches and lighters well away from children.

Smoke alarms

Smoke alarms are essential for home fire safety.

They give an early warning in the event of fire. They alert you quickly, and give you a chance to get out of the house to a safe location.

Only working smoke alarms save lives. Here’s what to do to keep smoke alarms in working order:

  • Change alarm batteries once a year, at the same time each year.
  • Test your alarm every month by pressing the test button.
  • Keep your alarm dust free – clean it at least once a year.

Be aware that children under five don’t always hear smoke alarms.

Install smoke alarms just outside the sleeping areas of your home so that the alarm sounds before smoke reaches anyone who is asleep. For extra protection, you can also install a smoke alarm in your child’s bedroom and in the bedrooms of people who sleep with the door closed.

Multi-storey houses and apartments should have smoke alarms on all levels, including just outside the bedrooms and near the path used to get out of the building.

Fire-fighting and fire safety equipment

For home fire safety, it’s a very good idea to have the following equipment handy:

  • A fire extinguisher and fire blanket that conform to Australian Standards: you can buy these from hardware shops. Keep them near the entrance to your kitchen, between the entrance/exit and anywhere a fire is likely to occur.
  • A 1 kg dry chemical fire extinguisher: this is suitable for most small household fires. Shake it occasionally to prevent the powder from settling.
  • An electrical safety switch on your switchboard: you’ll need a licensed electrician to install it for you.

The following tips are also important for home fire safety:

  • Make sure you know how to use any fire equipment you buy for your home.
  • Household extinguishers are designed to be used only once, so replace your extinguisher as soon as possible after use.
  • Never use water to put out an oil, electrical or fat fire.

Using a fire extinguisher
Read the instructions for using the extinguisher before you need to use it.

Use an extinguisher if:

  • you can extinguish the fire quickly
  • you’re not putting your life at risk by staying near the fire
  • everyone else has left the area
  • you know your extinguisher is suitable for putting out the type of fire you’re facing.

Once you’ve used your extinguisher, call 000 so firefighters can investigate. For example, the fire could have travelled up the fan area and into the ceiling without you realising.

Using a fire blanket
Read the instructions for using the blanket before you need to use it.

Here’s when and how to use a fire blanket:

  • Use a fire blanket to smother fires in cooking fat, or to wrap around people if their clothes catch alight.
  • If a pot is burning, don’t throw the blanket over it – instead, carefully place it over the pot and fire.
  • Turn off the heat source and leave the blanket over the pot. Don’t remove the blanket – the firefighters will do this.
  • Dial 000 to call the fire brigade.
It’s recommended that you use a fire extinguisher or fire blanket only if you feel physically and mentally able to use the equipment safely.

Preparing and practising for home fire safety

The following guidelines can help keep you and your family safe if there’s a fire in your home:

  • Practise a home escape plan with your children and family. Choose a meeting place outside the house and make sure everyone knows to meet there.
  • Practise the ‘stop, drop, cover and roll’ drill in case children’s clothes catch fire.
  • Practise the ‘crawl down low and go, go, go’ escape drill for crawling under smoke and poisonous gases.
  • Make sure you have two exits from every room in the house.
  • Never deadlock doors when you’re at home.
  • Dial 000 and ask for the fire brigade in an emergency. Know your address and the closest cross street.
  • In the event of a fire, keep a close watch on children once outside to make sure they don’t run back into the house.
 
 
 
  • Last updated or reviewed 20-03-2015