Some simple steps can help protect your family and home from the devastation of a fire.
- Ensure adequate smoke alarms are throughout your home.
- Keep a fire blanket within easy reach in your kitchen or around any open flames.
- Have a fire extinguisher handy in the kitchen (fire extinguishers expire, so check them regularly and replace when necessary.)
- Don’t leave cooking unattended.
- Turn off heaters before going to bed or leaving the house.
- Clean the lint filter on your clothes dryer after each load.
- Don’t leave electric blankets on for more than 30 minutes.
Choosing a smoke alarm
Smoke alarms save lives, and are compulsory in Australian homes, so let’s look at how to select the right ones for your home. Only buy smoke alarms that meet Australian Standards, look for the AS3786 marking.
Photoelectric Smoke Alarms are effective in detecting burning, smoldering fires. As most household fires begin with a smoldering fire, it is essential to have photoelectric smoke alarms installed in your home.
Ionization Smoke Alarms are designed to detect the smoke that comes from a flaming fire. Because you can’t predict how a house fire may start, it is advised to have both photoelectric and ionization alarms installed in your home for best protection.
Carbon Monoxide Alarms will detect gas leaks and are designed to alert the homeowner when carbon monoxide levels are raised. Because Carbon Monoxide (CO) is odorless, invisible and extremely dangerous, early warning is essential.
Your local Mitre10 store has a variety of purpose made smoke alarms for bedrooms, living rooms, bathrooms, laundries and kitchens. Make sure your family is protected by installing the alarm that is best suited.
Make sure you change your smoke alarm batteries once a year, a good way to remember is to change them at the same time you change your clocks for daylight savings. Don’t wait for them to beep, by this time they are flat and your house is not protected.
Test your smoke alarm before you install it, the details are on the back of the packaging. Simply hold down the button until a series of short beeps are heard.
Just as important as ensuring your smoke alarm is in good working order is ensuring that your home is equipped with the right fire control equipment. A well-maintained, well-chosen fire extinguisher is the first and most vital piece of equipment you should look for, but be aware that all not all extinguishers are made equal.
Picking the right fire extinguisher means understanding fire. Different fires consume different kinds of materials to burn, and different fire extinguishers have been developed to help extinguish these different kinds of fires. In Australia, fires are classified into one of six classes depending on the fuel consumed as part of the combustion process:
- Class A – Ordinary combustibles such as wood, textiles, paper, etc.
- Class B – Flammable liquids including paint, petrol and other fuels.
- Class C – Flammable gases including butane, methane, etc.
- Class D – Combustible metals such as lithium, potassium and others.
- Class E – Electrical equipment including generators, appliances, computers and any other device drawing a current.
- Class F – Cooking oils and fats.
Fire extinguishers sold in Australia are loaded with one of seven materials, with each suitable for different types of fires. For example, a fire extinguisher loaded with dry powder will be rated ABE, meaning it is suitable for extinguishing paper fires, flammable liquids and electrical fires, while a fire extinguisher loaded with water will be rated A, as it is unsafe to use on other types of fire.
Consider the fire risks in your home when selecting a fire extinguisher. The aforementioned ABE dry chemical fire extinguisher is one of the most common in residential settings as it extinguishes a broad range of fires found within a home.
Additionally, fire extinguishers need to be periodically maintained. Check the attached tag to find out when your extinguisher needs to be inspected, and ensure it is recharged after use.
What about kitchen fires?
You may have noted that while ABE fire extinguishers can extinguish a wide range of fires, they aren’t suitable for fires resulting from cooking oils and fats. Cooking fires require either a dedicated fire extinguisher rated for class F fires or a fire blanket, which can smother the fire and starve it of oxygen. For most homes, a fire blanket will be a faster and more affordable option, helping you control cooking oil fires without needing to buy and maintain a separate extinguisher.