Home Safety: No smoke, No fire

Although devastating house fires are much less common in South African properties than in many other parts of the world, the increasing use of timber and thatch here makes it worth taking some home safety precautions to prevent possible loss of life and property.

"Most house fires are caused by faulty wiring, so the first thing on your home safety checklist, especially if you have just moved into a new home, is to double check that all wiring, plug points and switches in your home meet safety standards. If you're not sure, you should get an electrician to give the whole system a once-over," says Berry Everitt, MD of the Chas Everitt International property group.

"As part of your home safety checks you should also inspect the wires and cords on all your electrical appliances and gadgets and replaced any that are frayed or cracked, and be sure never to 'overload' electrical outlets with lots of double adaptors or more than one multiplug."

Second, he says, if you have a thatched roof or lapa, you must have proper lightning protection, especially on the Highveld, and for your own home safety ensure that the thatch is treated with fire retardant.

Writing in the Property Signposts newsletter, Everitt also suggests the following home safety fire prevention measures:

- Never leave a candle or other naked flame - including a braai fire - unattended by an adult;
- Never leave matches or cigarette lighters lying around within reach of children;
- Abide by the ban on fireworks in residential neighbourhoods; and
- Store gas cylinders, fuel or flammable chemicals outside your home, and store pool acid and chlorine separately.

As for protective measures, he says, you should keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen as a home safety precaution and another in the garage or workshop, learn how to use them properly and test them regularly.

"Similarly, if you install smoke alarms, remember to clean and test them regularly. Like burglar alarms, they're useless if the batteries are flat.

"And finally, you should check your home owner's insurance policy to make sure you are covered for loss in the case of a fire - and under what conditions you may not be insured."

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