While common sense is key to avoiding many household hazards, it’s sometimes easy to overlook the less obvious dangers that can also put lives and property at risk.
But thanks to some simple safety precautions, experts say we can easily combat a range of hidden perils.
Overhanging tree branches
When it comes to objects that pose huge risks during intense weather events, large overhanging tree branches top the list.
“These could be branches overhanging your house, your pool, or anywhere that your kids might be playing,” says NSW SES spokesperson Stephanie Sullivan.
“That’s why we’re asking community members to make sure they trim any overhanging branches that could be potentially dangerous if they break and fall.
If you’ve got a large tree that requires council approval to cut back, get that approval in now.”
Backyard trampolines might be a source of family fun, but they can also constitute significant hazards during powerful winds.
“If a trampoline isn’t secured down with ropes or an actual trampoline kit, they’re the first things to go in a big wind storm,” says Sullivan.
“They just get picked up and can end up on power lines or in a neighbour’s backyard.
Also, make sure to take precautions with your outdoor furniture.
Before a storm hits, bring them indoors so they can’t become airborne.”
Clogged roof gutters
Roof gutters that are full of leaves and debris aren’t just an obvious bushfire hazard – they can trigger serious structural failure during a big storm.
“In the event of hail and heavy downpours, rain and ice can combine with a build-up of leaves and go back into your eaves,” says Sullivan.
“That’s when we see roof damage and even roof collapses.
That’s why it’s always so important to clean your gutters and keep them clear.”
Outdoor cooking appliances
The ability of gas barbecues to facilitate fun-filled weekends is well documented.
So is their potential for causing fires.
“To eliminate the risk of dangerous gas leaks, make sure your cylinders are in-date and that your equipment’s reasonably new and in good condition,” advises Superintendent Gary Williams, from Fire and Rescue NSW.
“Also make sure the hose is relatively new and in good condition, and that you always turn off the gas at the cylinder after you’ve finished cooking.
Also, make sure you don’t use outdoor cooking appliances indoors.”
A persistent smell of gas in or around your home can point to a potentially deadly and explosive threat.
“If you can smell gas and you can’t identify the source or turn the gas off, call 000,” says Superintendent Williams.
When it comes to internal gas appliances, Williams says it’s crucial to have the actual gas outlets installed by a licensed gas fitter.
“Also have a photoelectric smoke alarm with a 10-year lithium-ion battery, as well as a home escape plan.”
Unsafe festive lights
While fairy lights are a great way to add festive bling to a home, the immense fire risk posed by sub-standard products is something that shouldn’t be ignored.
“Unfortunately, the country is inundated with cheap overseas product that isn’t always built to standard,” says Malcolm Richards, chief executive officer of Master Electricians of Australia.
“Because fire is one of the biggest outcomes of poor electrical equipment, it’s critical that we only buy quality products that are safe and built to standard and that we use them in the way they’ve been designed.”
Richards recommends visiting the Federal Government’s product safety recall website to check if you’re inadvertently harbouring any faulty products.
Unsafe electrical cable
Substandard electrical cable represents a ticking time bomb for many unsuspecting households.
Top of the perpetrator list is a product called Infinity – a faulty cable variety prone to rapid deterioration and failure.
“Forty thousand kilometres of this cable was sold in Australia, and so far we’ve only been able to track down less than half of it,” says Richards.
“If you’ve had any work done on your house in the last five years or if you’ve purchased a home and don’t know its history, get your wiring checked.”
No matter how many precautions you take, sometimes accidents or damage happen so make sure you have adequate home and contents insurance for when or if a home hazard impacts you.
By Owen Thomson
This article was originally published by Fairfax Media on the January 25th 2017 and represents the views of the author only and not of NRMA Insurance.