Getting Ready for a Safe Winter

Winter is a time when we pull out the heaters and electric blankets from storage and crank up the temperature on the air con. Before you plug it in and turn it on, it is worth spending some time to thoroughly check the condition of wiring, sockets, plugs, switches and so on. These things can easily get damaged or worn out over time. If you find problems or damage, it is best to have the items replaced or repaired. If you use an electrical item with damage, the higher the risk of electrical hazards such as fire, overheating and electric shock.

Here are some tips on how to stay safe (and warm) this winter:

Smoke Alarms

Did you know that you do not smell smoke while you are asleep?
* Regularly test your smoke alarm/s to make sure they 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.
* Check local legislation to ensure you have enough smoke alarms installed and in the right places.

Smoke Alarm Maintenance Guide
Once a month
Test your smoke alarm batteries by holding the test button until you hear the beeps.
Every 6 months
Vacuum dust off your smoke alarms.
Keep your smoke alarm free of particles to help reduce false alarms and ensure smoke can easily reach the internal sensor.
Every year
Replace lead or alkaline batteries – recommended when daylight savings ends.
Every 10 years
Replace all smoke alarms with new 10-year lithium powered smoke alarms (or earlier if specified by the manufacturer).

Portable Heaters
* Ensure everything is kept a metre from the heater.
 *Check your electric and gas heaters before you use them. If you find or suspect a fault, have it checked by a qualified repairer or get it replaced. Check all cords for fraying and damage. Plug heaters directly into wall sockets only, do not use powerboards.

Portable Heater Safety Tips
* Put your heater on a level surface, well away from anything that could knock it over.
* Make sure your heater is at least a metre away from combustible materials, such as paper, furniture or curtains. Never use it to dry your clothes!
* Never leave your heater unattended whilst in use or while you are asleep.
* Never power a heater from an extension lead – they can easily be overloaded and cause electrical shorts or fires.
* Avoid buying second hand heaters.
* 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 can lead to a build up of lethal gases which could be deadly. Check manufacturer’s recommendations before use.

Electric Blankets
* 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 feel for any uneven hot spots. If you notice any of the above the electric blanket should be replaced.
* Folding your electric blanket can cause damage. Always roll it for storage.
* Electric blankets are not designed to be left on while you are sleeping. Add additional bedding to keep you warm if needed.

Using your electric blanket
* Carry out a thorough visual check of the blanket to make sure it is intact, with no signs of damage when first purchased.
* Read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions before use.
* Use the blanket only for the purpose intended, i.e: over-blankets must be positioned above the occupant of the bed while under-blankets must be positioned under the occupant of the bed.
* Check the manufacturer’s instructions before washing your blanket.

* Use the blanket whilst it is still folded, or creased.
* Use a hot water bottle at the same time as using your electric blanket.
* Touch the blanket with wet hands or feet.
* Insert or use pins to hold the blanket in place on the bed.

Your blanket should be replaced with a new one if:
* Fabric is worn or frayed.
* Scorch marks or discoloration areas are visible on the fabric.
* Wires are visible or poking through the fabric.
* There is damage to the flexible cord between the supply plug and the control and/or the control to the blanket.
* The controller makes a buzzing sound when switched on and/or is giving off a smell.
* The connector fitted to the blanket is damaged or over-heating.

Safety Switches
40% of house fires in NSW each year are caused by electrical appliances and electrical faults. This means many house fires could have been prevented by getting the wiring checked and having safety switches installed by a licensed electrician.

It is strongly recommended that you ask a licensed electrician to check if your property has safety switches installed. We can help with all your winter safety electrical needs. Contact us here to talk to us about how to keep your family safe this winter.

Download your Winter Fire Safety Checklist from Fire NSW and get your home ready for winter.

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