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Auckland – 26 June 2012 – With winter upon us, the heaters have emerged from the wardrobes and electric blankets placed on the beds. But with the cold weather comes an increasing number of devastating house fires.
Already AA Insurance has received claims for several house fires, for totals up to $800,000. Considering that the average total loss house fire claim is $200,000 (excluding contents claims) it is vital that Kiwis take extra precautions to keep safe in winter.
“The truth is most house fires are avoidable. Being constantly aware of all possible safety risks will ensure that most importantly you, and secondly, your home are protected. While some risks may seem obvious, others pose perhaps a lesser known danger,” said Suzanne Wolton, Head of Corporate Affairs at AA Insurance.
AA Insurance estimates it has paid out over $10 million in large home fire claims (excluding contents claims) in the last three years.
Common causes of fire-related claims according to AA Insurance:
• Unsafe disposal of ashes from wood fires (eg placing hot embers in cardboard or plastic containers, leaving them indoors or on wooden decking)
• Drying laundry too close to the fire or heater
• Failing to remove lint from the dryer so it overheats
• Overloading electrical multiboards
A recent fire claim AA Insurance dealt with was caused by an overload of lint in a dryer, after it caught fire under the high temperature. The fire then quickly spread throughout the garage. “While clothes driers are an efficient way of drying the necessities during colder months, a quick lint check when you put in a new load can go a long way to avoiding a tragedy,” said Suzanne.
A more obvious risk comes from clothing being left to dry on a rack in front of an open fire or a gas heater. “Make sure that everyone uses the heater metre rule – nothing should be closer than a metre to a heat source. Making it a habit to turn all heating appliances off before leaving the house – in the same way that you would lock up – is a sure way to eliminate this danger,” continued Suzanne.
A less obvious risk, but one that causes many fire-related claims for AA Insurance, is overloaded multiboards. Covering this appliance with clothes, placing it too close to a wall, or overloading it with too many plugs, can all cause a multiboard to catch fire with devastating consequences.
“Don’t cut corners when it comes to multiboards because we have seen it lead to tragedy,” said Suzanne. “If you’re looking at purchasing one, it’s well worth spending a few extra dollars to buy one that has an in-built surge protector, which will cause it to automatically switch off if it overloads. Also, check how many amps your multiboard is designed to handle and never plug anything in that exceeds this – and never plug in more appliances than there are sockets.”
Also, installing smoke alarms and regularly checking their batteries ensures homes have a good warning system in place to keep people and homes safe.
For more tips on fire safety visit: http://www.aainsurance.co.nz.