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Practical tips to help you manage technology safely and avoid electrical fires.

Preventing electrical fires around the home

Insurers usually expect to see a rise in claims stemming from heating equipment such as bar heaters, electric blankets and unsecured fireplaces in the winter months. Faulty, improperly serviced or unattended items represent a significant fire risk if left plugged in. As well as financial losses running into hundreds of thousands of dollars, domestic fires can also lead to serious injury or death.

That said, claims for electrical fires from overloaded sockets and power boards can occur at any time of year. According to Fire and Rescue NSW, over 350 residential house fires are started by electrical faults each year across the state.1

The reason for this is simple. Australians are well accustomed to more and more technology in the household, from tablets and phones to consoles, laptops, set top boxes, not to mention ‘next generation’ toys such as hover boards. All of these need to be charged and recharged.

As demand for available sockets goes up, many of us opt for a quick fix - a multiple headed adapter or power board – rather than try and figure out what we can unplug to make room. The problem is that electrical systems in many Australian houses are simply not equipped to manage all these items drawing power at once. The result? Power surges, blackouts and, in some cases, house fires.

Similar risks arise if power boards are improperly ventilated or if power leads become partially dislodged from their sockets. Here’s some practical tips to help you manage technology safely and avoid electrical fires:

  • Only use power boards with surge protectors. Surge protectors act as circuit breakers, cutting the flow of power in the event of an overload and reducing the risk of fire.
  • Use individual power points for larger appliances. Power boards are most suitable for smaller items that are used intermittently, such as hairdryers or mobile phone chargers. Save individual power points for appliances that draw more power, including fridges and televisions.
  • Avoid ‘piggybacking’ power boards and adapters. Never plug extension cables or adapters into power boards – each one should be connected to an individual, wall mounted power point.
  • Install more power points. If you regularly find yourself short on power points, the best solution is to hire a qualified electrician to install more for you. In rooms where demand is highest, such as the lounge or living room, spread these across two or more walls to avoid creating trailing cables. Never attempt to install additional power points yourself.
  • Ensure power boards are properly ventilated. Power boards generate a lot of heat that is easily transferred to anything sitting on or around them, creating a fire hazard. Make sure power boards are only placed in areas with plenty of space, allowing heat to dissipate safely.
  • Regularly inspect power boards for signs of damage. Never attempt to fix a damaged power board – just replace it. Ensure all cable heads are fully inserted into their sockets.

To obtain insurance cover for your possessions should the unthinkable happen, contact us on 13 61 91 or click here to find out more about buildings and/or contents insurance, or drop into your local branch.


1 https://www.fire.nsw.gov.au/page.php?id=630. 
Sydney Credit Union Ltd ABN 93 087 650 726 | Australian Credit Licence Number 236476 | AFSL 236476 | arranges this insurance as agent for the insurer Allianz Australia Insurance Limited ABN 15 000 122 850 AFSL No. 234708. We do not provide any advice based on any consideration of your objectives, financial situation or needs. Terms, conditions, limits and exclusions apply. Before making a decision about this insurance please refer to the relevant Product Disclosure Statement available on scu.net.au. If you purchase this insurance, we will receive a commission that is a percentage of the premium . Ask us for more details before we provide you with services.