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Just in Case

Fire

In Queensland, about three-quarters of all home fire deaths happen in homes without smoke alarms, and nearly half of all house fire deaths occur when people are sleeping.

Each year, entire families are lost to fires in homes, and many more adults and children die despite the attempts of others to save them from flames and smoke. It is very important that your family has a fire ‘action plan’ to follow if a fire breaks out in your home, and that you know what to do in case of a fire when your parents aren’t home.

What fire fighting equipment and alarms should we have where we live?

It is recommended that every home have a fire extinguisher – either a red bottle with a white band or a dry chemical extinguisher of 2 to 3.5 kg.

It is preferable to have one stored in each level of your home, but the minimum suggested, and the best places to keep them, are one in the kitchen and another in the garage.

A fire blanket is also recommended, for use for kitchen fires. If used, it should be replaced.

The law requires that all homes and units throughout Queensland be fitted with smoke alarms.
  • Homes built before 1 July 1997 must have at least one 9-volt battery-operated smoke alarm
  • Homes built or significantly renovated after 1 July 1997 must have a 240-volt (hard-wired) smoke alarm.
Smoke alarms detect fire smoke and, when smoke is detected, send out a loud, distinctive sound to alert residents of the potential danger. Many lives have been saved because people have been awakened by their smoke alarms.

Where should we install smoke alarms in our house?

Smoke alarms are a warning system that fire is present – they can’t extinguish a fire or prevent a fire. It’s up to you and your family members to follow safe procedures if an alarm sounds.

The best places to fit a smoke alarm will depend on the size and plan of your house.

However, the following is recommended:
  • Between living areas and bedrooms
  • In your bedroom if you sleep with the door closed
  • In all children’s bedrooms
  • In all rooms occupied by smokers
  • At least one on each level of your house.
If your smoke alarms are powered by batteries, the batteries must be replaced at least every 12 months. Check the battery once a month by pressing the test button.

How can I help keep my house fire safe?

Queensland Fire and Emergency Services conduct free Safehome visits to provide fire safety advice for your home. To organise a visit or find out more go to
www.fire.qld.gov.au/communitysafety/freeprograms/safehome.asp.

Many of the procedures involved in making your house as fire safe as possible will be your parents’ responsibility. But there are some things you can do:

Electric blanket
  • Don’t use your electric blanket in winter until your parents have checked that its wiring is safe
  • If at any time you think your electric blanket isn’t working properly, or you can detect a burning smell, turn off the blanket, take it off your bed and tell your parents
  • Don’t leave the blanket on overnight – switch it off when you turn off your light.
Heaters
  • Turn heaters off when you are last to leave a room
  • Don’t hang clothes near a heater. If you are drying clothes, have at least 1 metre between clothes and the heater, and check regularly that the clothes are not burning or smelling burned
  • Don’t put cords under the carpet in your room
  • Keep heaters away from curtains, furniture and bedding. Never place a heater on furniture or your bed
  • Use a fireguard when lighting an open fire.
Candles, incense and essential oil burners
  • Extreme care should be taken with these items – they are not toys, and are as dangerous as any other heated or lit substance
  • Don’t put them where other things can catch fire
  • Don’t fall asleep if they are being used
  • Make sure they are extinguished properly when you have finished with them
  • Use good quality candles, the ones where the wax evaporates and not just melts and hardens again when extinguished -overflowing molten wax can and does start fires.
Electricity sockets
Don’t overload the electricity sockets in your house. Place one appliance in one socket. If your computer set-up or other requirements lead you to need more sockets, discuss it with your parents. Together you can work out a safe arrangement
  • Always turn appliances off at the switch and remove plugs if possible
  • Use safety plugs if small children may be tempted to place objects in the sockets in your house.
What should I do if there’s a fire in my house?

The steps to take if you discover a fire in your house can be
remembered with the word RACE:
R – Rescue
Rescue anyone in immediate danger if it is safe to do so, and
ensure they remain beyond the danger area.
A – Alarm
Raise the alarm and follow your family’s escape plan.
C – Contain
Close doors to contain the fire, if it is safe to do so.
E – Extinguish
Try to extinguish the fire if you are trained to do so and it is safe.

How do I use a fire extinguisher?

Your family will decide if you are allowed to use the fire extinguisher, or whether you have to find an older person to do so.

To use a fire extinguisher you need to follow the PASS steps:
P – Pull the pin
Some extinguishers require you to release a lock, press a puncture lever or perform a similar action.
A – Aim low
Point the extinguisher at the base of the fire.
S – Squeeze the handle
This releases the extinguishing agent.
S – Sweep from side to side
Move the extinguisher from side to side, while still pointed at the base of the fire, until the fire appears to be out.

What sort of extinguisher should we have at home?
You should remember that extinguishers are for small fires only – they’re not capable of putting out a larger fire.

Your parents should choose an extinguisher that is suitable for fires involving electrical equipment and flammable liquid fires – these are the most common causes of household fires and there are extinguishers suitable for both. Make sure your family keeps its extinguisher away from the stove, as it can be affected by heat. If you have to use the extinguisher, test it before approaching and aiming it at the fire.

Bush and grass fire safety

If you have wandered away from your group while in the bush and you become aware of a fire, you should know what to do.

If you are on foot:
  • Don’t panic
  • Never try to escape from an approaching fire by heading further uphill – fire spreads uphill quickly. Instead, try and move across the face of a hill and beyond the fire
  • Never try to run or jump through flames unless you can see that there is no fire on the other side and the flames are low
  • If you can’t move away from the fire, look for a cleared area or a barrier such as a large log or rock to hide behind
  • Look for a ditch or creek bed to provide some protection
  • If there is no escape, get down as low as possible and cover all exposed skin with clothing or dirt. Keep low until the fire has passed.
If you are in a car:
  • Don’t panic
  • Tell the driver to park the car in a cleared area
  • Leave the lights on so others can see where you are
  • Close all windows and vents to avoid smoke and ash from entering the car
  • Turn the air-vent controller to the ‘recycle air’ position
  • Crouch as low as possible in the car, below the level of the windows. The lower you are, the safer you are
  • Cover all exposed skin – a woollen blanket or woollen seat cover is ideal and should be carried by all cars when in the bush
  • Wait for the fire to pass and when it is safe to do so leave the car.

If you are travelling in or through the bush, especially during summer, it is advisable to wear cotton or woollen clothing in case of fire. Should you encounter a fire, you’ll find synthetics melt and
stick to you.

Home escape plan


Every family should have a plan in place so that everyone knows what to do in case of fire. Even the process of discussing the plan will highlight important points and potential issues for your family
and your home.

You should never trap yourself in your house. If you prefer to have your locks deadlocked when you are alone in your house, make sure the keys are in the deadlocks so you can exit easily.

Your discussion about an effective plan should include the following issues:
  • Everyone knows at least two ways out of each room in the house
  • Windows can open and be used for escape if necessary
  • An appropriate outside meeting place is designated, so a ‘roll’ can be called to ensure everyone is safe
  • Who will be responsible for any babies or small children, disabled residents and pets
  • The best means of escape for anyone upstairs
  • Which (if any) parent or adult will decide if there is opportunity to take any possessions.
It is useful to practise your escape plan to ensure it works efficiently and everyone understands what to do.

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