I-FIRESTARTER

Fire

As our lives become more tech-driven, the risk of devices being charged and causing fires is on the rise too. So how can you protect your home and business premises from the i-fire threat?

 

Tangled web of cables: High tech lives equal high fire risks

 

Most of us can’t imagine life without all of our electrical devices. Even fewer of us ever imagine charging them will lead to our property being destroyed. But as our work and home lives become more device-laden, the risk of fires increases too.

 

According to Deloitte’s Behaviour unlimited: Mobile Consumer Survey, 89% of Australians owned a smart phone in 2018 – and 70% used their phone for work. Smart devices have become necessities not luxuries for many – in addition to 89% owning smart phones, 76% own a laptop, 70% a tablet, and 12% an e-reader.  In fact, the average home now has 17 connected devices (Telsyte data). Workplaces are also tapping into the connected device trend. Deloitte’s survey found 90% of businesses ranked a connected workplace in their top priorities.

 

All those devices need charging and recharging, which has led to a new threat to our homes and businesses – fires caused by charging devices. The rate at which firefighters are being called to attend fires started by chargers, batteries and cables is growing exponentially as our lives become more tech-reliant. The sad fact is, electrical fires caused by overloaded sockets and power boards are on the rise, with NSW Fire and Rescue noting that electrical appliances and faults cause almost 40% of all home fires. Business premises are also under an increasing fire threat, as more devices are used in workplaces and need to be charged.

 

Firefighters recommend these safety tips when charging devices:

  • Always use the charger that came with your phone, tablet or mobile device.
  • Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • If you need to buy a replacement charger, choose a branded, genuine product. Non-genuine accessories often contain faulty parts that are at risk of overheating, catching fire or causing a fatal electrical shock.
  • Avoid storing, using or charging batteries at very high or low temperatures.
  • Protect batteries from being damaged (crushed, punctured or immersed in water).
  • Don’t leave items continuously on charge after the charge cycle is complete. 
  • Don’t charge devices while you are out of the house/room or off-site.
  • Never cover chargers or charging devices.
  • Don't overload sockets. Avoid ‘piggybacking’ power boards and adapters.
  • Never leave devices to charge on fabric surfaces – as the device charges, it heats up and can start a fire. WA’s Department of Fire and Emergency Services says that the number of fires started by devices left to charge on beds, sofas and other fabrics has more than doubled in the last year.

The best way to reduce the chances of your home or business being damaged or destroyed by a fire caused by charging a device is to be vigilant, take care not to overload power points or power boards and ensure that all electrical equipment is in good working condition.

 

Here are four other things you can do to help reduce the risk of fire damage at your home or business premises:

  1. Smoke alarms and sprinkler systems
    Ensure an adequate number of suitable alarms are correctly installed and positioned throughout the property. Keep the detectors free of dust and cobwebs, and make sure they are tested regularly. If the detectors are battery-operated, ensure the batteries are changed at least once a year. Sprinkler systems should be professionally installed and serviced. Where feasible, use a monitored fire system at your business premises.
  2. Fire extinguishers and fire blankets
    Keep fire extinguishers and fire blankets in key locations around the home (kitchen, garage) and throughout your business premises. Only purchase those that meet Australian Standards – and make sure to get the right extinguisher for the type of fire (there are different ones for wood/paper, fats and oils, electrical etc.).  Make sure the fire blanket or extinguisher is easy to access, but away from potential fire hazards.
  3. Safety switches
    Install safety switches/RCDs to protect all power outlets and lighting circuits and always use a qualified electrician to undertake installation and repairs.
  4. Power points
    ‚ÄčEnsure that there are sufficient power points located throughout the property. With more devices being used, there is a growing need for charging stations (power sockets) which has led to many people not only using power boards but also extension cords and double adapters on those outlets – greatly increasing the risk of power surges, short-outs, overheating and fires. Get your electrician to install a number of outlets with USB ports in key charging locations around your home (kitchen, family/living/lounge room, study, bedrooms) and workplace (under each desk, in the office, break room).

In addition, always have licensed and qualified tradespeople install, service and repair lighting, air conditioning and heating systems. And keep on top of electrical maintenance.

 

While prevention is always better than a cure, make sure your Home & Contents or Business Insurance provides adequate cover for fire – check you are not underinsured and your business policy also covers business interruption. Talk to an EBM Account Manager about protecting your home or business premises from the risk of fire damage.

  

 

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