Be fire safe this autumn

Werribee Fire Brigade is calling for residents to be fire safe this autumn. (Supplied)

With the autumn weather now settling in with cool nights, rainy days and shorter daylight time, Werribee Fire Brigade community safety officer Lieutenant Jim Staggard encourages families to be conscious of not only changing weather but also of winter fire hazards in the home.

Working smoke alarms

When we sleep we lose our sense of smell so we are unable to detect the early stages of a fire only a working smoke alarm will save your life. Statistics tell us 60 per cent of fatal house fires start in the bedrooms and living areas between 8pm and 8am. It only takes two or three minutes for a whole room to become involved in fire, with no working smoke alarm your chance of survival is greatly reduced.

Since the first of August 1997 is has been compulsory by Victorian law that some alarms must be installed in all homes, units, flats and townhouses. It is the responsibility of all owners and landlords to install working smoke alarms.

Only working smoke alarms save lives, you should check the alarm weekly by pressing the test button, you can use a broom handle, if the alarm is ‘beeping’ the battery needs changing. Now may be a good time to change your old smoke alarms to a new unit with a lithium battery that has a 10-year lifespan.

Special smoke alarms are available for the deaf and hard of hearing, contact the Department of human Services for advice.

Electric blankets

Electric Blankets should be checked on a regular basis for wear and tear especially around the cord/blanket junction and replaced if integrity is compromised. Never leave the electric blanket turned on when you are in bed or not at home. Never place heavy articles on the bed when the blanket is turned on as a hot spot may develop causing a fire. Also remember to place cords under the bed and if they are exposed be careful as they can become a trip hazard.

Open fires

There is little to surpass sitting by an open fire on a cold rainy evening with the family as long as basic safety precautions are taken, A spark proof screen should always be in place, children should be warned of the danger and encouraged not to get to close to the fire especially if wearing loose fitting garments that may catch fire. Small children should never be left alone when the fire is going. Beware of drying clothes close to an open fire because of the radiant heat from the fire. Store spare firewood well away from the fire and beware of the type of wood you are burning because some may spark more than others. When cleaning out the fireplace in the morning be shore to store the overnight ashes in a steel bucket away from any flammable material.

Heaters, gas and electric

Similar safety precautions apply to heaters as to open fires, drying clothes is the greater hazard with heaters and the brigade attends a number of house fires each winter caused by drying clothing too close to various heaters. Again be wary of electric cords around heaters as a trip hazard that may result in a heater being tipped over onto floor coverings that may start a fire. Heaters should be turned off when leaving the house. Gas heaters should be checked by a registered technician for Carbon Monoxide (the silent family killer) emissions on a regular basis.

Electric powerboards

Powerboards are meant to be a temporary solution to providing power and should not be overloaded, that is only plug in one device per outlet. Never use double adaptors or other power boards into powerboards.

Kitchen and barbebcue area

Many fires occur in the kitchen and barbecue area where cooking is left unattended. Other fires are caused by curtains, paper towels and other flammable items that are too close to sources of heat. A fire blanket is a great asset.

Rehearsing your home fire plan

Each home should have a fire plan that should a fire occur all members of the house know what to do. Know what to do if the smoke alarm operates day and night, at night remember to roll out of bed, don’t jump up until you determine the smoke level, everyone should know to crawl in smoke, remember the slogan “get down low and go go go”. Have an alerting system shouting FIRE FIRE is OK, ringing a bell or an aerosol can horn. Everyone should know the exit doors, teach children if they are trapped in a bedroom to have something in their room they can break a window with, put s blanket/doona over the broken glass and climb out. If your house is two story you should have a rope ladder in box secured to the wall by a window for occupants to escape. Someone in the house should be responsible to get your pets out as well. Then everyone should meet at the letter box to make sure everyone is out Pets included and NEVER go back inside a burning building. Everyone should know how to call 000, how to give your correct address with the nearest cross street.