Thursday, 07 July 2011 11:10
Across South Australia, electrical hazards were reported in almost 30% of homes inspected and many of them pose a fire risk.
Roof spaces can cause problems, especially if faulty wiring comes into contact with combustible materials, fuelling a fire above the smoke alarm which can leave residents unaware of the fire above their heads until it is well advanced.
Edward Lukac, Archicentre State Manager South Australia said common electrical problems revealed during the property inspections included defective wiring, unearthed power points and antiquated switchboards without residual current devices (safety switches) installed.
"A large proportion of electrical problems have been caused by the owners themselves - or previous owners, personally installing additional power points. This illegal wiring is extremely dangerous and increases the risk of house fires and can be deadly for occupants or visiting tradespersons. Electrical wiring should only be undertaken by a licensed electrical contractor."
Archicentre's Electrical Safety Check List
- Never undertake your own electrical work unless you are a qualified electrical contractor. It is illegal and dangerous to do so.
- Use a registered licensed electrical contractor for all electrical wiring work.
- Have the electrician install safety switches on all power and light circuits in the home.
- Minimise the use of double adapters and power boards in the home, as they can overload power points. Have the electrician install enough permanent power points so the temporary double adapters and power boards can be removed. Remove all extension leads as they can cause tripping hazards for the elderly.
- When not in use, electric blankets should remain off, especially when the house is unoccupied.
- Eradicate any vermin. Rats and mice can eat through the insulated wiring in the roof and floor spaces increasing the risk of house fires. Ants like to nest in power points.
Mr Lukac said the three most common causes of winter fires are:
Mr Lukac said "all home owners should ensure their smoke alarms are working as most fatal fires occur in the home and winter is a high fire risk time.
"Older adults are considered a high risk group in fire. Some medications decrease their mobility and hearing, which can reduce the ability to detect and escape from fire. Impairments can make it difficult for some people to respond quickly to a developing fire. Living alone can also increase their vulnerability to fire."
Archicentre has been inspecting homes for smoke alarms since 2004. Mr Lukac said since then, the architects have reported a significant number of senior's homes without smoke alarms and of the ones that did have them, many were inactive, or had the alarm, but it hadn't been installed.
"Many families owe their lives to working smoke alarms as you can't smell smoke when you are asleep. A small fire can quickly grow to involve an entire room in two - three minutes. Smoke alarms are an essential early-warning system to alert you and your family to the dangers of fire and smoke and allow time to escape." Source: Metropolitan Fire Brigades
Mr Lukac said fires starting in the ceiling above the smoke alarm can spread quickly through the roof cavity without activating the smoke alarms, which can leave residents unaware of the fire above their heads until it is well advanced.
"Clutter and the storage of old newspapers or other flammable material in homes can cause a major hazard in the event of a fire with a major problem being caused by deadlocks where keys have been removed which has resulted in fatalities with people trapped because they have not been able to open the door."
Research by Australasian Fire Authorities Council (AFAC) found that the absence of a smoke alarm can increase the possibility of a fatality by 60%. Each year on average there are more than 50 deaths - one a week, across Australia as a direct result of a house fire, with the majority of deaths occurring between 9pm and 6am when the household is asleep.
- Archicentre's Fire Prevention Tips
- Correctly install appropriate smoke alarms in effective locations.
- Test smoke alarms regularly.
- Never leave cooking, heaters, open fires or candles unattended.
- Clean the exhaust fan grille over the stove to remove dust, fat and grease build-up.
Clean the lint filter from the clothes dryer grille after each use.
- Always turn off the power points when not in use.
- Ensure down-lights are properly installed and not compromised by insulation.
- Install lever handle latches on doors for a quick exit without keys or leave the keys in deadlocked doors when home.
- Have a home fire escape plan and practise it regularly.
Ron Smith, Corporate Media Communications, Archicentre - Mobile: 0417 329 201