With winter arriving and temperatures plummeting, Australians are firing up their heaters and reaching for electric blankets to keep away the cold.
But authorities are urging people to take precautions to ensure their attempts to keep warm don’t end in disaster.
Firefighters in Perth are called to two structural fires a day, on average, during winter and authorities say people may not even realise the common things they are doing that could end up burning down their house.
Department of Fire and Emergency Services Commissioner Darren Klemm and Director of Electricity Compliance Michael Bunko said there were a number of ways residents could limit their chances of becoming a victim to an accidental blaze.
Here are their top five causes of accidental fires:
1. Failure to check and replace smoke alarms
Mr Klemm said the No.1 thing people can do to stop themselves becoming a victim of an accidental fire is make sure they have working smoke alarms.
“We just can’t stress enough how important it is that you have a working smoke alarm,” he said.
“The device needs to be changed every 10 years and you need to test it every week by pushing the button. Also make sure it’s clean, with no cobwebs or dust on the smoke detectors because it is a life saver.”
2. Charging phones or tablets on, or near, beds
Mr Bunko said something many people were guilty of is charging electronics on, or close by, the bed — a practice he said could leave them vulnerable to fire.
“When you are using tablets, or other small electrical appliances, make sure that you don’t use them in bedding or cover them — they dissipate heat when they’re charging,” he said.
Mr Bunko also warned people not to charge devices while they’re out of the house or the room.
“Preferably, don’t leave them on charge while they’re unattended — watch them all the time as they are a common cause of fires.”
3. Storing electric blankets under beds
Mr Bunko said people should make sure to check their electric blankets.
“Don’t roll them up and, before you put them on the bed, check them and ensure there are no hot spots or damage to the electric blanket,” he said.
4. Electronics purchased online
Authorities said consumers should ensure they bought electrical goods that were approved by Australian safety standards.
“Keep away from online stores because you can’t guarantee that the equipment is OK — you don’t know what it is. It could be fake or it might not meet Australian safety standards,” Mr Bunko said.
5. Distracted residents
Authorities said people leaving radiant heaters unattended, or becoming distracted in the kitchen while cooking could lead to house fires.
“If you are cooking and in the kitchen then you shouldn’t be distracted. Don’t leave the kitchen when you’ve got things on the stovetop,” Mr Bunko said.
Mr Klemm also stressed the importance of residents having a plan of action for what they would do if fire struck — especially families with children.
“The most important thing that must be done before an incident occurs is to have a plan,” he said.
This means sitting down with your family and going through what exactly you’re going to do if your smoke alarm activates in your house.
“Sitting down with your children, having a meeting point outside the home — doing this is really important for firefighters because our first priority is life.”