How dangerous is your laptop?

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Computer laptops have joined the list of appliances that cause fires in homes across Victoria.

Fires in the home are mostly avoidable and are often caused by distracted cooks or home appliances, the Metropolitan Fire Brigade says.

While, according to the MFB, unattended cooking is the number one cause of home fires, there are also unexpected fire causes, such as overheating laptops and curling wands.

Computers, including laptops, were responsible for 28 home fires in 2015. People are urged to be careful with storage and charging of laptops. Keep the vents clear and power off when not using your laptop.

RACV General Manager Insurance Mark Geraghty, encourages members to be cautious around heaters and fireplaces, as well as being careful doing mechanical repairs in the shed, using lawn mowers and power tools.

Insurance claim data shows fire claims have been consistent in winter and summer, but the causes vary. Heaters, fireplaces and electric blankets are common causes in winter. Barbecues and mowers in garages and sheds are common causes in summer.

Mark says a working smoke alarm, approved fire blanket and fire extinguisher are essential in any home.

He says it's important to regularly update your home and contents insurance to be assured that you have sufficient cover if your property is damaged by fire.

“Under-insurance is common because people often underestimate the value of their possessions and how much it would cost to rebuild a home and any outbuildings after a fire. Knowing that your home and contents are adequately insured will offer some peace of mind should the worst happen.

“RACV’s online calculators can make this task easier by helping estimate the value of buildings and contents but it is also important to consider new building regulations and the impact they would have on the cost to rebuild,” Mark says.

Safe Mistake Zone

The MFB and CFA have the ongoing Safe Mistake Zone campaign aimed at preventing fires in the home.

The campaign, which has a social media element, will see firefighters travel around the state to educate the public on fire hazards in the home. Hazards include overheating laptops, unsupervised children, dishwashers, poorly maintained chimneys, dropped cigarettes and barbecues being used indoors.

CFA chief officer Euan Ferguson said more people die in house fires than in bushfires, yet, the majority of fatal house fires are preventable.

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Firefighter’s top tips on cutting home fire risks

  1. Do not leave food cooking unattended and do not allow yourself to be distracted while cooking.
  2. Ensure appliances are in good working order and that electrical cords are not worn.
  3. Ensure safe storage and charging of appliances such as laptops, which have the ability to overheat.
  4. Ensure appliances are switched off when not in use
  5. Do not overload electric power boards
  6. Never leave open fires and candles unattended
  7. Do not dry clothing less than one metre from heaters
  8. Clean and test smoke alarms and replace batteries regularly
  9. Never deadlock yourself inside your house – keep keys in the lock when you are at home
  10. The build-up of dirt, grease and other materials within appliances can fuel a fire. Ensure you maintain appliances appropriately, for example, emptying the lint filter on dryers regularly
  11. Do not smoke in bed