Is my home a fire risk? The Fire Service says it may well be your 'evil dryer'
No-one expects their home to catch fire, but every day houses do catch fire – and the numbers go up in winter.
Today, for example, the NZ Fire Service expects to attend 18 house fires, and the same tomorrow, and the day after that. In summer, the number per day drops down to around 13 per day in February, which is still high.
In the wake of the London apartment building fire tragedy, it pays us all to consider how we could minimise fire risks in our own homes. And it helps to look at why those stats go up in winter.
The reason is the huge spike in house fires caused by chimneys, heating appliances and clothes dryers. In July there will be 159 fires caused by these things, as opposed to just 21 in January and February, which makes sense because we are not using them. But what are we doing wrong?
It appears we are a bit lax in several areas. The Fire Service says we need to dry clothes at least one metre away from the heater, not draped on top of it. We shouldn't be overloading our plugs and power boards either, especially if the heater is one of the appliances plugged in.
We should also ensure our chimneys have been cleaned, vacuum our heaters and dehumidifiers before first use, and never leave them running continuously. Fires need to be screened with a fireguard and never left unattended. And ashes should be disposed of safely in a bucket – they can take three days to cool down.
Naked flames should never be left unattended, and electric blankets should be turned off when we get into bed. Lamps can also be a problem if they are fitted with bulbs that are not the correct wattage, so it pays to check these also.
And as for that clothes dryer, the Fire Service says we should remove lint from the filter after each use, and regularly dust the grill at the back of the dryer to prevent dust build-up and overheating. Proper air ventilation is also important. And we need to ensure the dryer goes through the full cycle including cool down. The dryer and washing machine need to be turned off and unplugged before we leave the house.
A few more scary stats from the NZ Fire Service:
* A massive 35 per cent of all home fires start in the kitchen
* 50 per cent of all people who die in fires are careless with their cigarettes, matches or lighters
* 50 per cent of all fatal fires involve alcohol
With these stats in mind, it is easy to understand why the service says don't cook a fry-up when you have been drinking – order in some takeaways instead.
Needless to say, working smoke alarms are vital – along with an escape plan. "Fire can kill you in less than five minutes," says a Fire Service spokesperson. "Working smoke alarms give you an early warning to get out, and a well-practiced escape plan means you and your household know exactly how to get out in the event of a fire.
"We recommend installing long-life photoelectric smoke alarms throughout your home. Practise your escape plan regularly, and have an agreed safe meeting place so you know everyone has made it out."
CAN YOU ESCAPE THE HOUSE FIRE IN VIRTUAL REALITY?
If you don't believe how fast a fire can spread, check out the Fire Service virtual reality tool Escape My House – and see if you can make it out in time. "The video uses footage from 360-degree cameras that we put inside a real house, and burned down as a training exercise," says the spokesperson. "Everything you see is real."
Then use the escapeplanner.co.nz tool to make an escape plan for your home.