Page 2454 - Week 08 - Wednesday, 29 June 2005

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This motion supports the issue of compulsory smoke detectors and that the ACT be properly investigated and considered before any decision is made. In other words, let us not have a knee-jerk reaction to some horrible events but let us make considered decisions based on investigations.

It is important to note, however, that compulsory smoke detectors are only one aspect of what needs to be a multi-pronged approach to reducing house fire deaths and property damage. Comprehensive public education campaigns play a vital role in raising awareness about fire safety in homes. The ACT Fire Brigade runs several programs to educate the community about fire safety, including the fire ed program, the juvenile fire awareness and intervention program, fire warden training and fire safety and extinguisher training.

The fire ed program is presented to kindergarten children in all ACT schools by station crews and consists of five parts which aim to teach young children the dangers of fire and what to do in an emergency. The juvenile fire awareness and intervention program delivers tailored awareness sessions to children between the ages of three and 16 who are already exhibiting dangerous fire-lighting behaviours. The ACT Fire Brigade’s web site also provides the community with extensive information on fire safety and the various services available. But there is only so much that governments and fire brigades can do.

There is also a need for the community to be vigilant when it comes to home fire safety, particularly during the winter months. More than half of all Australians, or 52 per cent, keep appliances running when they leave the house; about one quarter, or 27 per cent, leave their dishwasher on; 41 per cent leave their washing machine going; and 13 per cent leave their clothes dryer on. Electrical appliances should not be left running while unattended, especially heaters and clothes dryers.

Canberrans need to ensure clothes and flammable materials are placed at least one metre away from heaters, and lint filters need to be regularly cleaned. In the kitchen, where more than 50 per cent of all fires begin, food cooking on the stove should never be left unattended. The proximity of electric cords, curtains, tea towels and oven cloths needs to be checked to ensure they are a safe distance away from the stove, and care needs to be taken with long, flowing sleeves. Candles, oil burners and open fires should never be left burning unattended. Smokers should not smoke anyway, but smokers should ensure all cigarettes are properly put out before disposing of butts. It is also important not to overload power points and power boards as well as to check electrical appliances regularly for faults.

While deadlocks are an important part of household security, people should not deadlock their doors when they are inside their homes as it could be impossible to escape during a fire. More than half of Australians, or 54 per cent, do not leave the keys in their deadlocks. Many people caught in house fires, especially the elderly, have been found dead near doorways with deadlocks. If residents have a deadlock on any door, they need to leave the key in the door or, if this is impractical, install a key holder close to the door. People need to remember that they may be disoriented during a fire or emergency; so ease of escape is vital.

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