Winter has arrived on our doors (and windows), and wants to stay with us for a couple of months. Although the need to stay warm is our priority; we should also be aware of the increased risk of fires or accidents waiting to happen.
Each winter, we hear about the alleged stories of fires at homes with the root cause being broken heaters or faulty heating appliances. And not to be very pessimistic, there is the MFB stats that more than 38% fires are in winter. Therefore, it's vital and critical to ensure that our appliances are safe to operate, and for extended use.
We can begin with minimum musts that we should take care of:
I've observed many households do not have a functioning unit, or it had been covered up during a get-together and has been forgotten about ever since. Please people! Ensure smoke detectors are correctly installed and monitored. Test them at least twice a year, and replace the batteries while you're at it.
Nowadays most alarm brands allow the smoke detector units to be connected to the alarms so that you or your monitoring firm gets updated alarms for not only break-ins, but also for fire/smoke alarms. Test and ensure the screamers installed with alarms are doing their job.
Most often the heating equipment is the root cause. Therefore, clean it thoroughly and overhaul your equipment. Set it out on the patio and trial usage before you actually start using it inside. If you have an old type of heater, better yet to replace it with ones that have thermostat, timers and also a tip-over switch that turns the heater off in case they fall over. As a thumb rule, always place heaters in a sturdy location, and do not place them close to clothes, children's cots, or in areas accessible by kids.
When removing an electric blanket, check to ensure the cords are dry and not chipped or open at any angles. Also, test the blanket on beds for at least half an hour before piling onto the regular bed sheets.
Fireplaces & Chimneys
Maintain these things bi-annually and preferably at least once before the start of winter. They must be clean to operate freely and to avoid smoke/dust remaining inside due to clogged vents. They pose a more serious danger than open fires, and can cause asthmatic symptoms and be the root cause for poor health. Also, if using wood, ensure the wood is dry, seasoned and certified for use in your appliance.
Hot water bags
Many people with back pain or aches like to keep hot water bags / bottles at bed. Please ensure that these are leak-proof, because hot water in direct contact with skin can cause burns or painful scalding that takes a long time to heal. Use a towel or swaddle to wrap these, and avoid direct contact with skin. And experts do suggest purchasing a new how water bag each year. And those who have an urge to drink water (hot or room temp) - then please use a flask with secure lids, and that which needs a procedure to open or pour yourself a drink.
Fire extinguishers and blankets
These are critical life savers along with an adequate first-aid kit. Keep these in the kitchen near the exit or in an easy-to-reach spot. Educate all family members of fire safety procedures, and train yourselves on using the available materials in the event of an accident. It also pays to have adults at home trained in first aid. Fire extinguishers and blankets can be purchased at most hardware stores (e.g. Bunnings and Masters), and first aid kits are available at local pharmacies.
As an afterthought, it's essential to have a home that is clean and not clogged by junk, so it's easy to isolate accidents to one zone if they occur and/or to escape in case it's too big to handle ourselves.
It pays to prevent than to cure. Be aware and safe this winter.