Winter is coming! 9 tips on ensuring your home is fire safe

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If you are caring for a person with a disability or a person who is ageing, the approach of winter means fire safety precautions should be high on your list of important things to check.

People over 65 are most at risk of a fire and represent 31% of all fatalities due to fire. The next most at-risk group are people with disabilities.

Fires spread quickly. The majority of residential fires begin in the kitchen and are often as a result of cooking being left unattended on the stove. Other common causes of fire include mechanical failure and falling asleep whilst smoking. Faulty wiring is another major cause of fires, with older homes having wiring problems.

Here are 9 tips to ensure your home is fire safe:

  1. Check smoke alarms
    Make sure smoke alarms are installed and working – test them monthly and change batteries annually. If you are unable to maintain your smoke alarms, contact your local fire station. Firefighters will assist residents who are ageing or people with a disability who need smoke alarms installed and batteries replaced under the FRNSW Smoke Alarm and Battery Replacement (SABRE) program.
  2. Prepare or revisit fire escape plan
    Have an escape plan in place, practice it and make sure your family and care worker knows about it – it’s particularly vital for people with reduced mobility to practice their escape plan. Where possible know two safe ways out of every room in your home. When at home, leave keys in or near deadlocks so that you can quickly escape in an emergency.
  3. Install special alarms for hearing impaired
    If you have difficulty hearing, consider installing special smoke alarms which have a flashing strobe light and vibrating pad that can be placed under a pillow.  The Deaf Society of NSW offer subsidised alarms.
  4. Make sure everyone knows what to do in case of a fire
    Don’t fight the fire – get out and stay out and dial Triple Zero (000) immediately. Never assume that somebody else has done so.
  5. Treat wheat filled packs with care
    Wheat bags can help pain, but they also have the potential to cause burns and fire if improperly used. Firefighters respond to numerous residential fires that have occurred due to wheat bags overheating in the microwave oven or wheat bags being used to warm bedding materials. Always heat a mug of water with the wheatbag to avoid it over drying out and combusting. Don’t put a hot pack in your bed, as it may combust. Follow the heating directions provided with the pack. Don’t sleep with a wheat bag. Don’t reheat it until it has entirely cooled.
  6. Always be alert to potential fires
    Close internal doors when leaving your home to reduce fire spread.
  7. Don’t smoke in bed
  8. Install an approved electrical safety switch
  9. Don’t overload power points
    Switch off small appliances when not in use.

Did you know your local Firefighters visit people with a disability and people who are ageing to install a smoke alarm or replace smoke alarm batteries at no cost? Eligible residents should contact their local fire station on an annual basis to get assistance.