Winter Warning: Is Your Apartment Building Fire Safe?

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Expert Opinion piece – Stephen Raff, CEO of Ace Body Corporate Management.


June, 2017
By Stephen Raff

As the winter chills roll in, apartment residents need to remain vigilant when it comes to fire safety in the colder months. Reports of failing certification standards in several states has prompted warnings to double check the safety of heaters and electric blankets ASAP.

As apartment residents attempt to keep warm this winter, they must remain aware that July and August are two of the biggest months for fires and fire related deaths. According to Fire & Rescue NSW, over 40% of all fire fatalities occur in winter, and owners need to play their role in making their communities safe. Not surprisingly it is in the colder parts of the year that our use of heaters, clothing dryers and other electrical appliances tends to rise as we attempt to combat the cold, and that’s where the risk grows.
There a few easy ways that apartment residents can significantly limit the risk of fire this winter.
Firstly, any electric heaters or blankets that have been kept in storage should be thoroughly inspected and cleaned before re-use. Heaters should be cleaned with a vacuum or soft dry cloth to remove any dust and ensure the lint traps on clothes dryers are clean. All clothes, curtains, rugs, towels and any other flammable materials should be kept at least a metre away from any heaters at all times. For any wet areas like bathrooms only ever use a purpose built heater that is designed for those environments.

Pets and children should always be supervised around electric heaters and it is critical that people remember to turn heaters off before they go to bed. Apartment owners should be aware of what they are buying if purchasing a brand new heater for winter. If purchasing a new electric heater this winter, residents should do their research and shop around for more energy efficient and safer options. Many heaters now come with automatic shut-off safety features such as a timer for when the appliance is knocked over and while they may be a little more expensive, a fire in your property will cost you a lot more in the long run.

Apartment residents should also be aware that very recently two electric heater brands sold at Bunnings have been recalled due to safety fears. The recall covers oil column heaters sold by two brands, Moretti and Click. Bunnings is urging customers to stop using the heaters immediately, offering a full refund upon their return and any strata community residents who have purchased one should do so immediately.

Aside from electrical heaters, apartment residents should be keeping a close eye on their other electrical appliances for any potential for fire. Check electrical appliances for any loose connections, frayed cords or exposed wiring. If any appliances are found to be faulty or damaged, owners should engage a licensed electrician or appliance repairer to have them tested and repaired.

It would be also be wise to check the batteries of smoke and fire alarms and to ensure that all units in the complex are working. Ensure power points are not overloaded and remember to switch off electrical appliances if going away for long periods.

Ace Body Corporate Management
This article is not intended to be personal advice and you should not rely on it as a substitute for any form of advice.Ace Body Corporate Management offers this newsletter to clients to assist in updating them on company and industry news. The content within this newsletter is of a generic nature and may not be applicable to all owners corporations. Ace Body Corporate Management attempts to provide the most up-to-date and accurate information for our clients, however we strongly recommend that individuals and committees seek further advice before acting on any information in this newsletter.