Home fire safety checklist
This home fire safety checklist can help you reduce the risk of fire hazards around your home.
- Before lighting the barbecue, check the cylinder’s expiry date.
- Check that the cylinder’s hose connections are tight, there’s no leakage, and the hose is in good condition with no signs of cracking, damage or wear.
- Never put flammable liquid on a barbecue.
- Turn the barbecue off when you’ve finished cooking.
- Unplug electrical appliances when they’re not in use and put them out of reach of children.
- Immediately replace faulty or worn-out electrical appliances and appliances with frayed cords.
- If you need extra power outlets, get an electrician to install them. Avoid using power boards or double adaptors.
- Make sure there’s airflow around your clothes dryer. Let your clothes dryer finish its ‘cool-down’ cycle. Clean the dryer’s lint filter every time you use it.
- Don’t leave an iron face down on an ironing board.
- Don’t leave cooking unattended on the stove. Cooking left unattended is the most common cause of kitchen fires.
- 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.
- Always supervise children in the kitchen or keep them out of the kitchen in a safe play area when you’re cooking.
Open fires and heaters
- Enclose your open fire, pot-bellied stove, gas fire or electric heater with a guard. You can secure a guard by attaching it to the wall.
- Clear space around your heater. Anything that could catch fire – like curtains, clothing, bedding, children’s toys and extra firewood – should never be within 1 m of your heater or fireplace.
- Turn off heaters at the power source when you’re not using them. If you have a fireplace, extinguish the fire before you go to bed or leave your house.
- Teach young children to stay away from heaters and fireplaces even when they’re not in use.
Smoking and vaping
- Keep matches and lighters well away from young children.
- Never leave lit cigarettes unattended.
- Make sure cigarettes are put out before disposing of them.
- Put used cigarettes in a bin rather than an ashtray. If you use an ashtray, make sure it has deep sides, and empty it regularly into an outdoor bin.
- Check furniture for cigarette butts and ashes before going to bed.
- Never smoke in bed.
- Use only vape chargers to charge vapes, and replace the batteries if they get wet or damaged.
- Never leave vapes to charge unsupervised at night.
It’s a good idea to have an electrical safety switch on your switchboard. By law, all new homes must have these switches. Some states and territories have additional requirements about electrical safety switches, so it’s worth checking the law where you live. Only licensed electricians can install electrical safety switches.
Smoke alarms: key to home fire safety
Smoke alarms are essential for home fire safety. It’s also the law that all Australian homes must have smoke alarms.
Smoke alarms give an early warning in the event of fire and give you a chance to get out of the house to a safe location.
What types of smoke alarms to use
Photoelectric smoke alarms are recommended. In some states the law says homes must have these alarms. For information on the type and location of smoke alarms required in your state or territory, go to your local fire service website.
It’s also recommended that smoke alarms, including photoelectric alarms, are interconnected. In an interconnected system, when one alarm goes off, they all go off. This gives people more time to escape.
Where to put smoke alarms
Install smoke alarms just outside the sleeping areas of your home so that the alarm sounds before smoke reaches anyone who’s asleep. But be aware that children, particularly those under 5, don’t always hear smoke alarms. For extra protection, you can also install a smoke alarm in your child’s bedroom and in the bedrooms of people who sleep with their doors closed.
Multistorey 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.
How to maintain smoke alarms
Only working smoke alarms save lives. Here’s how 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 and listening for the beep.
- Keep your alarm dust free. Clean it at least once a year.
- Replace smoke alarms every 10 years.
Fire extinguishers and fire blankets
For home fire safety, it’s a very good idea to have a fire extinguisher and fire blanket that conform to Australian Standards. You can buy these from hardware shops. Keep them near the entrance/exit to your kitchen and anywhere a fire is likely to happen.
Never use water to put out an oil, electrical or fat fire.
Using a fire extinguisher
A 1 kg dry chemical fire extinguisher is suitable for most small household fires.
Read the instructions for using the extinguisher before you need to use it. Also shake it occasionally to prevent the powder from settling.
Use an extinguisher if you:
- can extinguish the fire quickly
- are not putting your life at risk by staying near the fire
- know everyone else has left the area
- know your extinguisher is suitable for putting out the type of fire you’re facing.
Once you’ve used your extinguisher, call 000 and ask for the fire service so firefighters can investigate. For example, the fire could have travelled into the ceiling without you realising.
Note that household extinguishers are designed to be used only once, so replace your extinguisher as soon as possible after use.
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 service.
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 you and your family to stay safe if there’s a fire in your home:
- Dial 000 and ask for the fire service in an emergency. Know your address and the closest cross street.
- Practise a home escape plan regularly 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 2 exits from every room in the house.
- Never deadlock doors when you’re at home.
- 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.
- If someone is burned, perform burns first aid immediately.
Smoke inhalation is the main cause of death from fires. If there’s a fire in your home, follow your fire escape plan. This way you can get out quickly and avoid excessive smoke inhalation.