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Staying warm this winter...without burning up!

Prevention is always better than cure and the critical part of enjoying a safe winter is being prepared. Here are some top tips to help you make sure the colder months are both safe and cozy.

Prepare yourselves - winter is coming. As the warm autumn season progressively gives way to Old Man Winter’s grasp, we will all start to reach for the electric blanket and the warmth of the heater, but as the weather cools, the focus on safety must intensify. Not only does the risk of burns and other injuries increase as we turn up the heat, but nearly half of the estimated 50 deaths per year from house fires occur in winter.

The key to minimising the risk of anything from a small burn to a devastating fire in your home is being prepared. This includes being aware of the potentially dangerous items in your home and ensuring that they are in good working order and always utilised in the correct manner. Here are some of high risk items to be aware of:

Open fireplaces

A lit fireplace may be the ultimate symbol of a cozy household, but it also has huge potential for burns, fires and toxic poisoning if not cared for and operated correctly.

Make sure you:

  • Always place a screen in front of a fire when it is in use to prevent embers sparking a fire on furnishings or burning household members
  • Never burn rubbish or other items not intended for use within a domestic fire as these can cause toxic fumes
  • Clean the flu or chimney regularly to prevent smoke reflux and toxic poisoning

Other open flames

All sources of open flame - like burning candles, should be treated with the utmost caution. Don’t leave them unattended and make sure they are out of reach of young children and pets.

Gas and electric heaters

Possibly part of the reason gas and electric heaters can be so dangerous is because they seem more innocuous than an open fireplace.

Make sure you:

  • Place portable heaters so that pets and kids can’t knock them over
  • Never leave any heater unsupervised – never leave a heater turned on while you sleep.
  • Check electric heaters for damage to the reflectors and the power cord. Contact a qualified electrician or service technician to carry out the repairs if needed
  • Get gas heaters serviced by a qualified professional at least once every two years or immediately if they show any signs of disrepair (such as yellow flames, unusual smells, the pilot light flickering on and off, and noisy or malfunctioning fans)
  • Ensure your gas heater is equipped with a carbon monoxide detector and is operated in a well ventilated area
  • Never use an outdoor heater indoors

Electric blankets

There is nothing better than hopping into a warm bed in the middle of winter, but electric blankets can cause their own list of potential hazards including overheating, sparks and fires.

Make sure you:

  • Store your electric blanket rolled and not folded as folding can damage the wires used for heating in the blanket
  • Check to make sure your blanket has not been recalled due to safety issues
  • Lay your blanket out and keep a close eye on it the first time you turn it on for the season to ensure it has not been damaged in storage

Hot water bottles

Hot water bottles can offer an efficient and cost effective method of staying warm, but every year people are burnt due to their improper use.

Make sure you:

  • Use warm and not boiling water
  • Check your bottle for leaks or damage before using
  • Replace your bottle regularly – the rubber can erode from the inside without you being aware of it
  • Wrap your bottle in a towel or fabric

Always, prevention is better than cure, but the other critical part of enjoying a safe winter is being prepared should the worst case scenario arise.

Make sure you:

  • Install fire alarms in every room of your home. Test them regularly and replace the batteries at least once every year
  • Create a detailed and efficient fire escape plan. Make sure everyone in your household knows several ways out of every room in your home, and practice your fire escape plan regularly
  • Educate the children in your home on what to do in the event of a house fire
  • Double check your home and contents insurance is up to date and that you have reviewed your sum insured to make sure your level of insurance is appropriate.

The truth is, accidents and faults can occur in any environment, make sure you have the best chance of avoiding a disastrous result by being prepared. For more information on home and contents insurance visit For further information on staying safe in winter, visit HealthDirect Australia.