Read these winter safety tips

Winter is a season that brings extreme cold conditions that place significant stress on the human body.

It is a time when most of the vegetation that grew in summer is starting to dry out and become highly combustible.

As a result, household fires and veld fires tend to occur during this season, being caused deliberately, accidentally or spontaneously.

Fires are everyone’s worst nightmare.

A raging blaze can consume your valuable property even before fire fighters arrive.

And a smoldering fire emitting deadly smoke containing carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide is fatal in a confined space.

Your life and those of your loved ones can be put at very high risk.

Winter brings its own unique set of safety challenges to everyone, especially informal settlement dwellers – due to the highly combustible building materials used to construct their homes.

Inadequate spacing between shacks also contributes to several structures being involved at once as well.

Motorists are at high risk due to dense smoke from dry, burning vegetation next to major routes and freeways.

A potential hazard here is wind, which might blow the smoke across roads, obscuring the vision of motorists and pedestrians and subsequently causing fatal crashes.

Ekurhuleni Disaster and Emergency Services has provided safety guidelines to use as temperatures drop at an increasing rate towards sub-zero levels.

Fire safety becomes a priority to everyone in preserving life and properties in general.

Fires are caused by smoking, frayed electrical cords, overloading electrical plugs, short circuited plugs, illegal connections, poor storage and usage of flammable liquids and chemicals, and various heating, cooking and lighting sources, to name but a few.

n Smoking:

Careless smoking inside homes/structures is still far too common a practice. Many injuries and deaths are still caused by such fires.

Safety precautions for smoking:

  •  Never light cigarettes, pipes or cigars near any flammable liquids.
  •  Never throw lighted cigarette butts out of either a moving or a stationary vehicle.
  •  Never smoke in bed. Get up and sit where you are less likely to doze off.
  •  Use large metal or glass ashtrays.
  •  Never smoke in bed while on strong medication.
  •  Never smoke in bed when overtired.

Safety precautions for heating sources:

  •  Switch all types of heating sources off before going to bed.
  •  Switch all heaters off in the absence of adults.
  •  Avoid using electrical heaters in a wet/damp environment.
  •  Wait until the heater has cooled off before moving or refilling it, especially with paraffin.
  •  Keep a space of approximately a metre between the heater and household objects.
  •  Provide proper ventilation into a room for fresh air to enter and smoke to escape.

Safety precautions for cooking sources:

  •  Don`t throw water on an oil fire, paraffin fire, or even an electric appliance (stove); keep a pot lid or fire blanket nearby to smother flames.
  •  When cooking on a paraffin stove, leave a window open to let out the fumes (ventilation).
  •  Use the appropriate pot size on a paraffin stove.
  •  Operate paraffin stoves away from other flammable liquids or gases.
  •  When you pour paraffin into a lamp or stove, use a funnel and not a cup. Funnels prevents spillages. Only refill lamps or stoves when they are cold.
  •  Always keep paraffin stoves and other appliances on a flat surface so they won’t fall and start a fire.
  •  Keep a burning stove away from combustibles such as curtains next to the windows.
  •  Always turn your stove and lamp off when you leave home or it is out of sight.
  •  Never leave young children alone with a burning paraffin appliance.
  •  If your clothing catches fire, fall to the ground and roll over to put out the flames (stop, drop and roll). If someone else is on fire, cover them with a blanket.
  •  Is an adult always present in the kitchen when food is being cooked?
  •  Are flammable liquids stored in safety containers and kept away from heat?
  •  A qualified person must repair appliances.

Safety precautions for lighting sources:


· Cut the candle shorter.

· Use appropriate candle holders that are half filled with water/sand. Avoid using plates or saucers – these practices are still far too common.

· Put the candle in the centre of the table. Avoid putting it next to open windows.

· Place it out of reach of children.

Matches and lighters:

· Matches and lighters are not toys to play with, so keep them out of reach of children.

· Know where your children are at all times. Many fires are deliberately caused by juveniles.

General safety:

· Avoid throwing lighted cigarette butts on dry vegetation. They can cause grass or veld fires.

· All portable electrical appliances should be switched off during load shedding for safety reasons – in case the power is restored in the absence of adults.

· Domestic electrical appliances should also be switched off during load shedding.

For life-threatening incidents, contact the Ekurhuleni emergency line on 011 458 0911 or 10177, or the national toll free number on 112.

Malebo Tseke

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Winter safety tips