Press Release

5 in 7 Australians engaging in risky fire behaviour

4 in 5 Australians are unprepared for household fires, with over 80 per cent lacking a home fire evacuation plan

Australian households could be at heightened risk of fire, with new research from QBE Insurance revealing that 73 per cent of Australians are not only engaging in behaviour exposing them to the risk of house fires, but are also unequipped to combat a fire breaking out.

According to the research, 5 in 7 Australians are engaging in at least one of five top risky behaviours common in cooler weather, coinciding with the period when major domestic fire claim volumes typically spike by 33 per cent1, according to QBE claims data.

Australians are also unprepared to deal with a fire if one breaks out, with 70 per cent admitting they don’t have a fire blanket or extinguisher, and 80 per cent lacking a home fire evacuation plan.

Preparation and education are vital, as it’s likely that most Australians don’t even know they’re taking these risks, says David Gow, QBE Head of Property Claims.

"Fire is a unique risk, and if action is taken to address the risk very early, it can prevent or reduce damage. If no action is taken, a fire at home can be catastrophic. 83 per cent of households are only relying on smoke alarms, however fire blankets, extinguishers and evacuation plans can save homes and lives.

“While some people may not realise there is a risk, there are others who may think it won’t ever happen to them, and that's why it's so important to educate households about the dangers, how to avoid them and how to better prepare for them, especially in the cooler months when we see the highest volumes of fire claims from peoples’ homes. We want to see everyone staying safe while staying warm."

The top risks include:

  • Not emptying the lint filter in tumble dryers: More than 60 per cent of Australians admit to this, and 28 per cent regularly or occasionally leave their dryer running when they leave home. This is a major safety risk, as the lint produced in the drying process can become a fire hazard if allowed to accumulate.
  • Charging devices in bed: More than 60 per cent of all Australians, and an overwhelming 83 per cent aged 21 – 34 years, often or always charge their phones, tablets or laptops in or by their bed. However, charging items on or under a pillow, blanket or couch doesn’t allow for adequate ventilation, and can lead to fire ignition.
  • Leaving cooking unattended: 73 per cent of Australians admit to leaving cooking unattended, and 22 per cent say they do it all the time, despite kitchen fires being behind one in seven fire-related insurance claims.
  • Slacking off on kitchen cleaning: Accumulations of grease, grime and crumbs are a key fire risk, however three in five Australians don’t regularly clean their kitchen appliances, and half don’t regularly clean their ovens as recommended.
  • Neglecting to check heaters for safety: 65 per cent of Australians are using gas or electric heaters to stay warm, yet one in five have never safety checked their heaters. Electric heater wiring, cords and receptacles should be checked regularly and at the start of every cold season, while gas heaters should be professionally serviced at least every two years.

Amanda Leck, Director of Risk and Resilience at AFAC, the National Council for Fire and Emergency Services, said residential fires have a significant emotional, economic and social toll.

“Damage or loss of your home and possessions is a terrible loss, and it can take years to recover from the impacts of residential fire. But the real cost is devastating – more than one preventable residential fire-related death occurs every week in Australia,” Ms. Leck said.

“We work with fire agencies and communities to improve understanding and reduce the risk of residential fires. Knowing your risk is key, and your local fire agency can help you make small changes around your home to help keep you and your family safe, especially during winter months.”

"While it’s important to stay on top of these risks, it's also a good idea for policyholders to check they have adequate insurance cover, and that the sum insured - the value of replacing your home and contents - is up to date,” adds Mr. Gow.

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

For more information:

Emily Connell
External Communications Specialist
QBE Australia
+61 422 907 484

1Winter claims compared to summer and spring