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Fire Safety | Important ways to safeguard your home from fire damage

Nothing says winter like cuddling up in front of a roaring fireplace or toasty heater with a cup of coffee or hot soup. Wood burning fireplaces remain a popular and most importantly, inexpensive way to heat your home and add ambiance on a cold winter night.

But this can be one of the biggest threats as many household fires start by accident when people are careless with open flames. Fires can start suddenly and spread quickly. The main sources of fires in the home are cookers, candles, electric blankets, fires and heaters.

Andrew Worthington, General Manager at Fidelity Fire Solutions, says this is a critical time of the year for education around fire safety.

“Every year we get called out to many fire incidents during the winter months. Besides the obvious threat of losing their lives, people can lose their homes and possessions in a matter of minutes when a fire breaks out,” he says.

'Know your insurance cover'

Bradley Du Chenne, CEO of online comparison website Hippo, says it is important that people understand what cover they prevent any fire-related claims from being rejected.

Insurance cover for fire damage will depend on which type of cover you have, be it car insurance, buildings insurance, household insurance or business insurance. “You cannot, for example, claim for fire damage to your furniture if you only have buildings insurance,” says Du Chenne.

Very few people have smoke alarms and even fewer have a fire extinguisher in their home, according to a Fidelity survey about fire safety and prevention. 

Installing smoke alarms isn’t common practice in South Africa - but it should be, suggests Worthington.

'Thatch lapas are especially vulnerable'

"Linked to an armed response service, you’ll have peace of mind that help is on its way in the event of a fire emergency, when every second counts. One of the most common causes of residential fires are indoor or outdoor fireplaces. Thatch lapas are especially vulnerable. Other causes of household fires include worn out electrical wires and appliances, burning candles, heaters, electric blankets, children playing with matches, gas leaks and burning oil left unattended on a stove, says Worthington.

Following are some important do’s and don’ts when it comes to fire safety:


·       Install smoke alarms and have them linked to your alarm system. Test them regularly, about once a month.

·       Buy at least one fire extinguisher for your home and have it serviced regularly.

·       Unplug appliances at night unless they’re designed to be left on (your fridge for example).

·       Know your emergency numbers and what to do in an emergency – Plan and practice your escape route and keep exits clear.

·       Check electrical cables for faults and take note of warnings on electrical appliances.

·       Keep low when exiting a smoke-filled room and cover your nose and mouth with a damp cloth.

·       Work out an emergency fire drill with your family.


·       Leave a burning candle, heater, pot of oil or fire unattended – ever.

·       Don’t dry clothes on fireguards or heaters and place portable heaters at least one metre away from anything that might catch fire.

·       Don’t smoke anywhere you might fall asleep.

·       Try to put an oil fire out with water. Try turn off heat, use a fire blanket or a DCP (dry chemical powder extinguisher) to extinguish.

·       Open a door which is hot to the touch.

·       Go back into the house if you’ve made it outside safely.

·       Go into a room that is on fire.

Apart from the obvious step of insuring your property against fire, it is always wise to take precautions and do common maintenance on what is possibly your most valuable asset. Something as simple as checking that contractors and electricians have certification that is valid and current could save you from dealing with potentially dangerous and costly consequences too.  

Whatever heating methods you use this winter none of them are guaranteed safe, so remember to take the necessary precautions. Fires can be deadly and devastating it is therefore vital to teach your children about fire safety from a young age.

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Article courtesy of Property 24
Photos by Pixabay