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Fire Safety for Winter

Did you know there are more than 1,000 home fires around Australia each winter, from which around 200 fire-related injuries occur. A fire can take hold in three minutes, yet it only takes seconds to prevent one.

Following are some tips to ensure you and your family stay safe over winter.

Smoke Alarms

Did you know that you will not smell smoke while asleep? Only working smoke alarms save lives. Thankfully Queensland has the most stringent smoke alarm legislation in Australia with other states taking note.

  • Test that your smoke alarm/s are working. If not, change the batteries or replace the alarm.
  • Check the smoke alarm is in date. Smoke alarms have a lifespan of ten years.
  • Give the smoke alarm a vacuum, if you haven’t done so in the last six months, to remove dust and any insects.

Read more about the Queensland, Victorian and New South Wales legislation.

Escape Plans

Having a home escape plan in conjunction with a working smoke alarm will greatly increase your chances of getting out safely. Every second counts.

If there is a fire in your home, do not wait, EVERY SECOND COUNTS, GET OUT and STAY OUT and then call Triple Zero (000). Never go back inside a burning building.

Remember to consider the special needs of children, the elderly or the disabled when developing your escape plan.

  • Draw your escape plan, and discuss it with your whole family.
  • Know and record two safe ways out of every room. Make sure that your windows and doors are not obstructed and can be unlocked and opened quickly if necessary.
  • Practise your escape plan regularly with the whole household including pets. Your letter box is a great place to wait for fire fighters arrival.
  • As you escape make sure you close internal doors behind you. This can reduce fire spread and minimise damage.

Fireplaces and Chimneys

Ensure your flues and chimneys are regularly cleaned. Place a fire screen in front of open fires to protect your family.

  • Have your chimney serviced prior to using it by a qualified tradesperson.
  • Purchase a fire screen if you do not own one. Fire screens should always be placed in front of fireplaces when in use.
  • Ensure your wood pile sits at least a metre away from the fireplace.
  • Choose a safe place to store matches and lighters where children cannot reach and that is at least a metre away from the fireplace.


Cooler months see a 10% increase in the number of home fires, with more fires in bedrooms and lounge rooms due to heaters, electric blankets.

Ensure everything is kept a metre from the heater.

  • Check your electric and gas heaters before you use them. If you suspect a fault have the item checked by a qualified repairer or replaced. Check all cords for fraying and damage. Plug heaters directly into wall sockets only.
  • Do not overload powerboards.
  • Ensure everything is kept a metre from the heater.
  • Install any new heaters and use as per manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Check your portable outdoor heaters before use and have serviced or replaced if required. Ensure that the area where you plan to use them is level, well ventilated and away from awnings and other combustible materials.

NEVER use any outdoor heating or cooking equipment inside your home including those that use ‘heat beads’ or LPG as a fuel source. This type of equipment is not suitable for indoor use and can lead to a build up of lethal gases which could be deadly. Check the manufacturer’s recommendations before use.

Electric Blankets

Folding your electric blanket can cause damage. Always roll it for storage, and check for any damage before use.

  • Test your electric blanket before use by laying it on top of your bed, feeling the internal wires for any abnormalities and inspecting cords/controls for damage. Turn it on for 5 minutes and then feel for any uneven hot spots. If you notice any of the above the electric blanket should be replaced.
  • Ready to pack your electric blanket away? Roll it for storage, folding can cause damage.

Electric blankets are not designed to be used while sleeping. Consider adding additional bedding to keep warm if needed.

Wheat Bags

Wheat bags can help pain, but they also have the potential to cause burns and fire if improperly used. Firefighters have responded to numerous residential fires that have occurred due to wheat bags overheating in the microwave oven or wheat bags being used to warm bedding materials.

  • Ensure the wheat bag you purchase comes with instructions and follow them carefully, especially when heating. Ensure the timer on the microwave oven is correctly set when heating your wheat bag. Accidentally setting 30 minutes instead of 3 minutes is easy to do and has caused potentially fatal fires.
  • Only use wheat bags for direct application to body aches and pains. Wheat bags can ignite, and are not designed to replace hot water bottles for warming beds.
  • Regularly check your wheat bag for signs of wear and tear or scorching. With age the fillings dry out and become combustible.
  • If your Wheat bag begins to smoulder or catches fire ring Triple Zero Immediately.


  • Don’t overheat the wheatbag by placing it in the microwave longer than specified by the manufacturer.
  • Don’t leave the wheatbag unsupervised in the microwave.
  • Don’t let anyone, particularly children or the elderly sleep with a wheat bag.
  • Don’t use the wheat bag to warm your bed up, as it may spontaneously ignite.
  • Don’t reheat the wheatbag before it has properly cooled.
  • A wheatbag should be cooled down on a non-combustible surface before storing.

Wheat bags can easily ignite or burn if overheated and need to completely cool on a non-combustible surface before storing. They are only designed to be applied directly to the body and should never be used in bed or while sleeping.

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