Home fire safety checklist
This home fire safety checklist can help you reduce the risk of fire hazards around your home.
- Replace faulty or worn-out electrical appliances and appliances 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 fire 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 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.
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.
- Supervise young children in the kitchen at all times or keep children out of the kitchen in a safe play area when you’re cooking. Use the inner stovetop elements first, and keep pot handles turned in.
- 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.
Always keep matches and lighters well away from young children.
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.
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 and listening for the beep.
- Keep your alarm dust free – clean it at least once a year.
- Replace smoke alarms every 10 years.
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 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.
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.
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
- 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 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 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 service 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.
- If someone is burned, perform burns first aid immediately.