Does your home have safety hazards you’re not even aware of?
From non-compliant smoke alarms to electrical faults, here’s a rundown of some home safety and security risks for you to get on top of ASAP.
1. Smoke alarm issues
A faulty or outdated smoke alarm could be a huge risk to you and your family’s safety. Particularly because in the event of a fire emergency, sufficient warning is of the essence.
Here are some things to consider:
Does your alarm comply with legislation?
Smoke alarms are required to comply with varying legislation, depending on your state.
According to the Executive Manager of Fire Safety at the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services, Mark Halverson, each new home or new lease in the sunshine state must have photoelectric interconnected smoke alarms installed, with one in each bedroom, in hallways and on every storey.
Alarms also need to be changed at least every 10 years and, if hardwired, need to be installed by a qualified electrician. Finally, in Australia, all smoke alarms need to be compliant with Australian Standard 3786:2014.
If you purchase an alarm at a reputable Australian retailer, this number should be displayed on the packaging. However, issues can arise when purchasing smoke alarms online, so be sure to check with the seller or website before buying.
Are your alarms interconnected?
While traditional alarms sound off one at a time as they individually detect smoke, an interconnected system sounds all alarms at once as soon as one of them detects a hazard.
The benefit is that anyone who is sleeping in a room with the door closed, for instance, will still have enough time to evacuate and get to safety. Without the interconnected feature on your smoke alarm, if there is a fire in a part of the home and people aren’t alerted, they could become trapped.
Are your smoke alarms clean?
Clean smoke alarms work better. Dust and debris inhibit the device and can cause the alarm to malfunction, Halverson warns.
“False activations can be minimised by ensuring the smoke alarms are free of dust, dirt and insects,” he says. “Vacuuming the base of the alarm is probably the best way to go about this.”
Are your smoke alarms in date?
Finally, Halverson says smoke alarms should be changed every 10 years or whenever they reach their ‘use-by’ date.
“The manufacture date should usually be stamped on the body of the smoke alarm,” he explains. “Smoke alarms that are more than 10 years past their manufacture date must be replaced.”
Check the date on your alarm and, if it doesn’t have one, then it’s probably time to upgrade your smoke alarm.
2. Kitchen fires
“Kitchen fires often start when people are cooking and get distracted,” Halverson says. “Fires usually develop if the person walks away to take a phone call or something and leaves the cooking unattended.”
While the moral of the story is to stay present and alert when cooking, you can also stock a fire blanket and extinguisher in the kitchen to help quickly put out any grease fires.
“A quick check when leaving the house before going out is always advised,” Halverson adds. “Make sure any form of ignition is turned off. For example, the iron, heaters or candles.”
3. Exposed electrical wiring
Electrical faults can cause surges or fires in a property, so Halverson recommends regularly inspecting wiring to uncover potential damage and risks.
“There are instances where rodents or vermin will chew through electrical wiring [under the roof] or leave it exposed. This may not be enough to actually trip the safety switches but can be the cause of a fire,” he says. “In windy times, if there’s movement of dust or leaves or debris in the roof, it can blow on top of the exposed wiring and fires can start in that way.”
4. Solar system faults
As with your traditional home electrical systems, it’s also important to keep solar panels and wiring clean and well-maintained.
“We do see fires start in solar panel equipment including invertors and battery storage, and this can cause issues for firefighters as typically panels are up on roofs,” Halverson begins. “While [emergency crews] will know how to disconnect the standard electrical supply, with solar power, it can be more difficult to isolate the supply.”
5. Environmental hazards
Do you live in an area prone to fires or floods? You’ll need to have an emergency plan in place.
“For those living in what we call a ‘rural interface’, where you’ve got housing on the fringes of significant bushland, it’s vital to be aware that there is a bushfire threat and you need to have a plan,” Mark says.
“That would include regularly cleaning leaves from gutters, removing external fire hazards from the building, such as old timber or old furniture close to the house that could be ignited by embers. You also need a bushfire survival plan.”
6. No safety plan
In fact, Halverson says it’s important for all households to have a home fire escape plan.
“It’s strongly advised that residents have a practiced fire escape plan, so all members of the household are aware of what to do should a fire occur, especially in the night time where it’s dark and a fire is likely to trip the electrical circuit, so you won’t have lighting available,” he states.
“Try and keep emergency paths clear and if doors have double deadlocks and keys, make sure you’re able to access those keys promptly and easily.”
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