Accidental fires in homes rises during the colder winter months as homeowners use their fireplace or other electrical appliances such as heaters more frequently.
How clued up are you on the type of insurance cover you have over your home and its contents? Especially for incidents such as fire?
“It is important that consumers are aware of what services are covered in their area and what they may be expected to pay for, especially if they do not have adequate insurance cover in place,” says San-Mare van Zyl, head of insurance operations at MUA Insurance Acceptances. “Homeowners should speak to their insurance provider to update their insurance policies to avoid being underinsured should they suffer huge damages.”
Fire is one of the most devastating causes of loss or damage to a home as not only can it destroy a home in a matter of minutes, but the resultant hassle of having to live in a temporary residence while the site is cleaned up and structural damage is repaired can be both frustrating and costly if a sound insurance policy is not in place.
How to reduce the risk of fire
Cold weather often results in an increased use of a number of electrical appliances, such as heaters, electric blankets, coffee machines and devices providing entertainment. With the number of electrical appliances in the home increasing, there is typically not enough plug points present for all appliances, resulting in many consumers using multi-plug adaptors (sometimes together with additional plug adaptors for two-prong power points). This electrical “nest” presents one of the most common causes of accidental domestic fires.
During winter the electricity grid is under immense strain and power suppliers are encouraging consumers to use gas appliances as a reliable source of alternative power. Gas stoves, cookers and heaters do, however, pose fire risks for homeowners if they do not use them responsibly.
An incorrect installation of gas bottles also increases consumers’ risk of a domestic fire developing.
Do not leave electrical appliances on stand-by mode
Many homeowners do not realise that an electrical current is still flowing to appliances in stand-by mode. This presents a fire risk in the event of a power surge occurring which causes damage the transformers.
Instead of leaving appliances in stand-by mode, it is better to switch off the device using the on/off button at the unit itself to mitigate the risk of these types of fires. However, it is important to note that switching a television on and off directly at the plug point could damage the transformers and could distort the picture colour or clarity.
Along with the pleasure of having a fireplace, comes the responsibility of maintaining it properly. Check the chimney for loose or missing mortar and make sure the damper closes tightly. It is also advisable to have the chimney cleaned professionally at least once a year as leaves or birds’ nests could be stuck in the chimney and prove to be a dangerous fire hazard.
“By looking out for these abovementioned scenarios homeowners can not only mitigate the risk of physical harm to occupants but also the financial and emotional strain of a residential fire and massive insurance claim,” says van Zyl.