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It goes without saying that when it comes to household fires, prevention is always better than the cure. As a family, it is important to be aware of fire safety procedures instead of thinking that it will never happen to you. Plus there are also things you can do that could go a long way towards preventing a fire in your household. Here are 3 key ones:
1. Identify fire hazards
Being aware of the potential fire hazards in your home is the first step to fire prevention. The most common ones include:
- Unattended kitchen appliances such as toasters and hotplates, or cookbooks that are left too near naked gas flames.
- Frayed or chewed electrical cords or other exposed electrical wires
- Overloaded power strips.
- Malfunctioning electrical appliances that might let off sparks.
- Flammable items that are too near a source of heat, e.g. lamp shades that are too close to the light bulb, curtains that are too close to the heater, etc.
- Unattended candles or burning cigarettes.
If you live in a bushfire prone area:
The strong winds that accompany bushfires often carry burning debris, which could blow onto your property or even enter your home through small openings and sometimes ignite curtains or other flammable material. If you live in an area that is prone to bushfires, look to carry out the following:
- Remove dry undergrowth and grass from around the home and buildings.
- Prepare a 20-metre fire protection zone around the home to reduce the danger from radiant heat and sparks.
- Establish a landscaped garden or vegetable garden, mow lawns, build wide paths, paving or driveways that can provide fuel breaks.
- Chemically treat the area around outbuildings and sheds to prevent the regrowth of vegetation.
- Cut back trees overhanging the roof and regularly remove leaves from the gutters.
- Remove flammable growth from around the base of trees.
- Prune lower tree limbs to provide a vertical firebreak to prevent ground fire spreading into trees.
- Provide space between trees and shrubs to remove the continuous line of vegetation to the house.
- Remove bark and wooden sleepers from areas in the garden near the house.
- Store flammable fuels and chemicals away from the house and secure in an enclosed shed.
- Clear all dry grass and bark mulch well away from the house.
2. Install smoke alarms
Here in Australia, working smoke alarms are mandatory in all homes and buildings. We also recommend that all smoke alarms in a building are interconnected, so that they will all sound when one of them is triggered. This gives those who are located in a different part of the house or building ample warning to evacuate.
There are two main types of smoke alarms:
a) Photoelectric alarms
Photoelectric alarms use photoelectric sensing technology, which consists of a light transmission source and a photosensitive receiver. When smoke or dust enters the light path, some light is scattered or absorbed, which causes the photosensitive receiver to trigger and sound an alarm. Photoelectric smoke alarms are best for detecting smouldering fires.
b) Ionisation alarms
Ionisation alarms are based on ionisation sensing technology, which uses a manmade radioactive element, Americium 241. This element ionises the air around it, resulting in excellent conductivity. However, in the event of particles arising from combustion or dust, the ionised air is encapsulated, which causes increased resistance to conductivity and therefore triggering an alarm. Ionisation smoke alarms are best for detecting flaming fires.
While photoelectric smoke alarms are ideal for living areas and near kitchens, and ionisation smoke alarms are best for bedroom areas, fire departments in Australia and the Fire Protection Association recommend photoelectric smoke alarms for the following reasons:
- They give earlier warnings for smouldering fires, which are one of the most common types of domestic fires, than other types of smoke alarms.
- They provide the best detection across a range of fires.
- They are less likely to emit nuisance or false alarms.
- They do not contain radioactive material.
With smoke alarms, it is important not just to install them, but also to remember to change the smoke alarm battery regularly. A common habit is to change it every time daylight savings starts. Here’s how:
- Turn the smoke alarm over and locate the battery compartment.
- Remove the old battery and replace with a new Duracell or Energizer 9 volt battery.
- Fold the red battery lever down into the compartment with the replacement battery. If the red battery lever is not held down by the battery, the smoke alarm will not close and will not be operational. The battery can only be inserted in one direction, so please ensure the polarity is correct.
- Test the alarm by pressing the Test Button for a few seconds. This should sound the alarm. The smoke alarm can now be reinstalled back onto the mounting base.
When changing the battery, don’t forget to give your smoke alarm a bit of a vacuum as well to keep it clean. For complete peace of mind, it is recommended that you change your smoke alarm every 10 years, regardless of whether you think it is working properly or not.
3. Know your fire safety tips
Remember these fire safety tips and practices, and if necessary, write them down in a safety checklist for your home:
- Make sure keys to all locked doors are readily accessible in case you need to escape a fire.
- Never leave cooking or any other open flame, including candles or oil burners, unattended.
- Clean the lint filter of your clothes dryer each and every time you use it.
- Never smoke in bed, and take extra care if consuming alcohol whilst smoking.
- Take extra care when using heaters, electric blankets or open fires.
- Don’t overload power points and switch off appliances when not in use.
- Always keep lighters and matches away from children and educate them that they are “tools not toys”, to only be used by responsible adults.
- If you have escaped from a home fire, remember that once you get out, stay out and dial Triple Zero (000).
Keep your home and family safe with top quality fire safety and security products for complete peace of mind. Here at Home Safety Store, our wide range includes home safety and security products, fire safety and protection products, and audio and video intercom systems. Browse our online store to find what you need, or contact us today for assistance.