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Playing with fire: Australians fail safety test

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About 73% of Australians are exposing their homes to unnecessary fire danger with habits such as charging mobile phones in beds and leaving cooking unattended, new research from QBE has found.

The research, based on the insurer’s claims data from 2018 to last year, reveals a similar percentage are not equipped to respond appropriately in the event of a fire incident.

Around 70% say they do not have a fire blanket or extinguisher, and 80% have no home fire evacuation plan.

QBE Head of Property Claims David Gow says preparation and education are vital as it’s likely most Australians have no idea they are facing these risks.

Fire is a unique risk, and if action is taken to address the risk very early, it can prevent or reduce damage,” Mr Gow said. “If no action is taken, a fire at home can be catastrophic.”

The risk of fire incidents is higher during the winter months as this is the period when QBE sees the “highest volumes” of related claims from home incidents, he says.

Apart from charging devices in bed and leaving cooking unattended, the other key risky habits are slacking off on kitchen cleaning, neglecting to check heaters for safety and not emptying the lint filter in tumble dryers.

QBE says leaving the lint produced in the drying process can become a fire hazard if the material is allowed to accumulate. The research found more than 60% of Australia admitted to doing this.

In the kitchen, 73% say they do not watch over the stove at times while 22% do it all the time. Kitchen fires make up one in seven fire-related claims, QBE says.

Bedrooms are another area facing elevated fire danger. More than 60% of all Australians, and an overwhelming 83% aged 21-34 years, often or always charge their phones, tablets or laptops in or by their beds.

Mr Gow urges Australians to review their policies to ensure they are adequately insured.

“Almost all policies include cover for fires at home, as sometimes, despite preparation efforts, a fire event can be unavoidable in some circumstances,” he said.