Winter wary

Ian Munro
Ian Munro
Winter can be a dangerous time for youngsters and I’m not talking Covid-19. I’m talking about home-heating, which presents all kinds of risks, writes parenting columnist Ian Munro.

Fire is an obvious hazard and we often hear of heroic actions as youngsters are saved from the flames.

Unmaintained chimneys cause fires. Sap and ash from whatever you’re burning coats the inside of the chimney and can catch alight. So, an annual chimney clean is essential, as is a fireguard.

Matches left by the fireplace can also cause unintended fires. Children are attracted to bright flames and a box of matches can be irresistible.

The heater-metre rule is worth remembering. Keep all furniture, curtains, bedding and drying washing at least one metre away from the heat source.

Electric heaters are best switched off overnight. Add a quality timer if you want some warmth in the morning.

Avoid overloading power points and if you need to use a multi-box, make sure it has a cut-out switch and that unused outlets are blocked with a safety plug to prevent inquisitive little ones from poking things in.

Electric blankets should also be turned off at the wall once the bed has been warmed and should be checked annually before use.

Gas heaters pose different problems. Plenty of ventilation is needed and they must be turned off before you go to bed.

Smoke alarms are also a must, placed in several appropriate places. If yours are older than 10 years they’re overdue for replacement. If you didn’t follow Fire and Emergency NZ’s advice and check the batteries when daylight saving ended, do it today.

A small fire extinguisher, stored handy to where the biggest hazards are (usually the kitchen), is a good investment. And so is an escape plan — how to crawl out low and speedily under the smoke. Can the kids open windows and deadlocks?

Winter also usually means extra medications in the house. Like the box of matches, keep them out of reach.

 - Ian Munro

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