Winter's a time for extra fire safety precautions

Published: 5th June 2006

Last year's winter was horrific. In a period of just over two weeks, 13 people died – including 7 children – in residential fires across NSW.

Winter is our busiest time for fires in the home. Between June and August, people tend to use more electricity and gas in their homes, especially heating, drying and cooking equipment. Appliances, equipment and open flames can cause fires in the home if they are not operated, supervised and maintained correctly.

Many of us think that a fire can never happen to us, but fires can and do occur when people are least prepared for them.

Tragedy can be averted – but it's up to you. There are simple precautions that you and your family can take to prevent and minimise the chance of fire.

Smoke alarms are crucial in keeping families safe. On 1 May smoke alarms became compulsory in all homes in NSW. The alarm's piercing sound is designed to wake everyone in the home in the event of a fire and allow them to escape.

In addition to smoke alarms, every family needs a simple home escape plan which will help you and your family to get out alive. An escape plan involves drawing the rooms of the home on a piece of paper, identifying escape routes from each room, and a meeting place for when everybody is safely outside. The same advice applies to businesses which should develop and rehearse escape plans with their employees. Once you have a plan, remember to rehearse it regularly, particularly before and during winter.

Other fire safety practices to be aware of during winter include:

  • ensuring that power supplies aren't overloaded, for example, don't piggy-back double adaptors;
  • checking electric blankets for damaged and frayed cords;
  • placing portable heaters away from curtains, bedding and tablecloths and not leaving them unattended;
  • removing lint from the clothes dryer filter and removing clothes when the cycle has finished;
  • placing a screen in front of fireplaces and ensuring that chimneys are clean;
  • supervising children around heating sources and stoves; and
  • leaving keys in deadlocks so that you can easily escape if the need arises.

Advice on these and other fire safety tips are available at our Winter fire safety and Fire Safety Factsheet sections. All of us need to work together to ensure that this winter there are no fire tragedies.

Greg Mullins
NSW Fire Brigades

Click here to view the video message from the Commissioner for winter.