As winter approaches in Australia, there is typically a surge in the use of heaters, fireplaces, and electric blankets, all of which can elevate the risk of household fires. For this reason, it is even more important to safeguard your home and loved ones from fire hazards.

The key to prevention and protection is to stay informed and to adhere to essential fire safety practices, which allow you to minimise these dangers and enjoy a safe and warm winter.

Check and Prepare Your Smoke Alarms

In Australia, smoke alarms are your first line of defence against home fires. By enabling early smoke detection, they provide you with the precious seconds that can mean the difference between a successful extinguishing or evacuation and a deadly, out-of-control blaze.

It’s recommended to have photoelectric smoke alarms installed as they are more effective at detecting smouldering fires, which are common in residential settings.

Below is a quick step-by-step guide on how to get your alarms ready for the winter:

Conduct Regular Testing

Regularly test all smoke alarms in your home to ensure they are functioning correctly. Press the test button on each unit and listen for the alarm sound. If any alarm fails to sound, replace the batteries or the entire unit if necessary.

Replace Batteries

If you have back up batteries, replace the batteries in your smoke alarms at least once a year. A good rule of thumb is to change them when you adjust your clocks for daylight saving time. If your smoke alarm starts chirping (which indicates low battery power), replace the batteries immediately.

Perform Thorough Cleaning

Dust and debris can accumulate in smoke alarms and affect their sensitivity. Clean each unit by removing it from the ceiling, tapping it gently on a surface while rotating the unit, followed by vacuuming around the vents and openings to remove any build-up. Avoid using water or cleaning agents.

Check Expiry Dates

Smoke alarms have a limited lifespan, typically around 10 years. Check the manufacture or expiry date on each unit and replace any alarms that are over 10 years old. Even if they appear to be in working order, older alarms may not provide reliable protection.

Position Alarms Correctly

Ensure smoke alarms are installed in the correct locations. There should be at least one alarm on each level of your home, including the basement. Install alarms inside each bedroom and outside sleeping areas. Mount them high on walls or ceilings so they can detect rising smoke.

Consider Interconnected Alarms

For enhanced safety, consider installing interconnected smoke detectors. These units communicate with each other, so when one alarm detects smoke, all alarms in the house will sound. This ensures that everyone in your home is alerted to a potential fire, no matter where it starts.

Observe General Fire Safety Practices

In addition to preparing your home smoke alarms, here are some fire safety tips to keep in mind for various household items during the winter season:

Cooking Safety

Unattended cooking is a leading cause of home fires. Never leave cooking unattended, especially on the stovetop. Stay in the kitchen while frying, grilling, or boiling food. Keep flammable items like dish towels and oven mitts away from the stovetop. Ensure cooking areas are clean and free of grease build-up, which can easily ignite.


Use candles sparingly and never leave them unattended. Place them in sturdy holders and keep them away from flammable items like curtains and furniture. Always extinguish candles before leaving the room or going to bed.

For a safer alternative, use battery-operated candles, which provide the ambience of real candles without the fire risk. This is especially useful in homes with pets or young children.

Heating Equipment

Proper maintenance and placement of heating equipment are crucial for fire prevention. Have your chimney inspected and cleaned annually to prevent creosote build-up, which can ignite and cause a fire hazard.

Place portable heaters away from flammable materials like curtains, furniture, and bedding. Always turn them off when leaving the room or going to bed to prevent accidental fires.

Electric Blankets

Before using electric blankets, inspect them for signs of wear and tear, such as frayed cords or scorch marks. Replace damaged blankets immediately to avoid any potential malfunctions. Avoid folding electric blankets while switched on, as this can cause overheating and pose a fire risk. Store them flat or rolled when not in use to keep them safe.

Lithium Batteries

If a lithium battery overheats, it can enter a state called thermal runaway, where the heat generated causes the battery to heat up further uncontrollably, potentially leading to fire or explosion. This can be caused by overcharging.  Puncturing, crushing, or otherwise damaging a lithium battery can also cause it to short circuit and ignite.

It is always important to use the batteries according to manufacturers instructions, and avoid exposing the batteries to extreme conditions. Always use the correct charger, avoid overcharging and monitor them.  Never leave it charging overnight.

Purchase your devices from reputable manufacturers to ensure they are of high quality and standard.

Other Electrical Devices

Besides heaters and blankets, other types of electric-powered devices can also cause electrical fires if improperly operated in unsafe conditions. As such, it is important to enforce electrical safety practices to prevent fires, such as:

  • Inspecting and Replacing Damaged Cords: Before using any electrical device, check cords for frays, cracks, or other damage. Replace any damaged cords immediately to prevent electrical fires.
  • Avoid Overloading Outlets: Do not overload outlets with too many devices. Use power strips with built-in circuit breakers and avoid daisy-chaining multiple power strips together to prevent overheating and fires.
  • Use Extension Cords Safely: Extension cords should be used only as a temporary solution, not a permanent fixture. Avoid running them under rugs or furniture where they can overheat or become damaged.

Develop and Practice An Escape Plan

It is always good to be prepared in case the worst really does happen. Firstly, make sure everyone in your household knows what the smoke alarm sounds like and what to do if it goes off.

Start by ensuring everyone knows at least two ways to exit each room and designating a meeting point outside. It is especially important to teach younger family members as well in case no adults can help them.

Once everyone is aware of the plan, it is ideal to conduct regular fire drills to practise the plan and ensure that everyone remembers what to do and where to go, as well as being able to refine any flaws in the plan.

Choose Home Safety Store For All Your Fire Safety Needs

Fire safety should not be an afterthought, especially in winter. Equip your home with the best fire safety products available at Home Safety Store, where we carry various ranges of top-quality smoke alarm solutions, fire blankets and more. Visit our online store today to ensure your property is safe and well-protected throughout the cold season.