How to survive winter dangers
Fire prevention is better than cure, writes Christelle Fourie
WITH winter just around the corner, fires in the home tend to increase this time of year as people use the fireplace or electrical appliances such as heaters and electric blankets for the first time in months to keep warm. In light of this it is important to take precautionary measures to help avoid the risk of residential fires.
Fire is one of the most devastating causes of loss or damage to a home, as not only can it destroy a home in a matter of minutes but the resultant hassle of having to live in a temporary residence while structural damage is repaired can be both frustrating and costly if a sound insurance policy is not in place.
Most people do not realise that they may have many fire risks in their home. Leigh-Ann Botha of Fire-Fox — an enterprise specialising in disaster recovery, restoration and decontamination solutions synonymous with fires and floods — provides some useful tips for homeowners. Electric blankets Many homeowners are unaware of the deterioration that occurs to the wiring in electric blankets due to the heating and cooling process, as well as storage when they are folded and packed away during the summer months. This can result in fractures in the wiring and present an extreme fire risk when it comes into contact with the fabric of the blanket. Another common fault is overloading the bed with extra pillows or blankets to speed heating. This is dangerous as it can cause the blanket to overheat and catch alight.
It is best for people to turn the blanket off when they are sleeping to avoid overheating, and to store the electric blanket in an open position, such as in between the mattress and bed base during summer, rather than folding it away. Overloaded plug points With the number of electrical appliances in the home increasing — think laptops, iPads, coffee machines, game consoles — typically there are not enough plug points for all appliances, resulting in many people using multiplug adaptors, sometimes together with additional plug adaptors for two-prong power points. This electrical “nest” is a common causes of domestic fires.
To avoid these fires, homeowners should rather use a multiplug adaptor that has individual plug isolators, or one with a trip switch. However, the best solution would be to get a reputable electrician to assess the home’s current wiring system and advise on the possibility of installing additional points if necessary. Standby mode for electrical appliances Many homeowners do not realise that an electrical current is still flowing to appliances in standby mode. This presents a fire risk in the event of a power surge occurring that causes damage to the transformers. Instead of leaving appliances in standby mode it is better to switch off the device, using the on/off button at the unit itself to mitigate the risk of these types of fires. However, it is important to note that switching a television on and off directly at the plug point could damage the transformers and could distort the picture colour or clarity. Electrical insect repellents and room deodorisers Because plug-in bug repellents or room deodorisers can be an eyesore they are often plugged into out-of-site points and forgotten. Unfortunately this presents a potential fire risk should the liquid run out, as it can cause the device to overheat and melt into the plug point. Always plug these devices into visible areas and unplug them when not needed.
By checking for these scenarios home-owners can not only mitigate against the risk of physical harm to themselves and occupants, but also the financial and emotional strain of a residential fire and a huge insurance claim.