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Working with Insurance every day, we do know that fires do not discriminate. Specifically fires caused by electrical appliances do not discriminate – in your home, in your business, even if you are a seasoned insurance professional.

Recently I read an article penned by one of the most experienced Claims Assessors in Australia – for the majority of his adult life (48 years!) he has been the person showing up at commercial premises sometimes only hours after the owner of a business has lost absolutely everything. Nowadays, he regularly sends out his blogs on insurance issues and he was very open about an incident that happened to him over Christmas last year.

Professor Manning’s situation arose simply from a television left on standby catching fire. Luckily something woke his wife in another room and she rushed to wake everybody. 

Now as an experienced claims assessor, he did have a fire extinguisher and was able to extinguish the fire in seconds, but he could still see a glow inside the TV. He used a garden hose AFTER he ensured the power was off.

The fire brigade was then called to ensure there was no fire in the ceiling space. They used thermal detectors and reported all okay but they rang the electrical authority who turned all the power off to the home.

Professor Manning was very clear that if the fire had been larger, he would not have attempted to extinguish it, but to get all to safety.

Professor Manning’s article made me think – yes, I have smoke detectors in my home, but I don’t have a fire extinguisher, and even if I did, would I have read the instructions on how to use it prior to the incident? That’s not a great plan …..

Many business premises have LED Screens and Televisions and so many are left on standby, we don’t even think about it twice these days (although with the cost of electricity maybe we should!). But we are coming up to winter, and it made me think even more about fire safety both in the home and in the office.

Each winter, Fire and Rescue teams across the country attend numerous fires and concerns for welfare has risen resulting from the increased use of heaters, electric blankets, and improper use of unsafe heating methods within the home environment. 

Fire safety

The office and business environment likewise can be subjected to the increased risk of fire due to the cold weather. Though many premises may well be air conditioned it is not unusual to see additional heating devices utilised by staff to increase warmth within the working environment. Demand for hot food may well result in greater use of hot plates, ovens, toasters, drink warming appliances which when utilised add to the potential fire risk. 

At Gow-Gates we also face this situation and one control that is emphasised greater during the winter months is to ensure all additional heating / warming / cooking devices are turned off and unplugged when the office is vacated.

It is impossible to outline every possible fire prevention practise in this article, but I have provided a brief list of tips below. Circumstances vary widely for each particular situation depending on the use of the location be it either domestic or commercial utilisation of the premises. It is recommended that you seek advice from your fire protection supplier or utilised the services provided by the fire brigade as to recommendations that can be implemented to reduce the risk of fire and increase safety for all in both domestic and commercial areas. 

  Heater Safety

  • Keep the heater at least 1m away from combustible materials (such as curtains, clothes, paper etc)
  • Make sure the electrical cord to the appliance is not frayed or damaged
  • Make sure the plug is in the socket properly – not loose
  • Ensure the appliance is on a stable flat surface with minimal risk of being knocked over
  • Turn it off if you cannot keep an eye on it
  • Do not put anything flammable around the front or sides of the heating unit
  • Do not operate around water or damp surfaces or if you are wet
  • Do not use fuel-burning heaters inside your home or office unless there is adequate ventilation

When reviewing potential increased fire risk it may well be worthwhile to review your current insurance arrangements for both your business and domestic insurance. Adequately arranged insurance can protect you from the unexpected loss which in the case of fire is usually now it happens namely ‘unexpected’.

Naturally insurance is good to protect assess but the most important thing to remember is that winter can bring additional fire risks. By being aware and taking action where needed it may prevent the loss of life. A life that could be a family member, friend, neighbour, customer or staff.

Have a plan, have a suitable fire extinguisher, identify risks and protect yourself.

If you believe that this issue is relevant to your business, please feel free to contact Rebecca Fleming, Account Manager of our Travel Industry Division at Gow-Gates Insurance Brokers on (02) 8267 9919 or to discuss your circumstances or to obtain a quotation.

Gow-Gates Insurance Brokers advises that persons should not act on the material contained in this article as the items are of a general nature only and may be misinterpreted. We therefore recommend that advice be sought before acting in these areas.