Winter is full-on in HK, with temperatures reaching below 10 degrees at night, making living in the non-isolated and non-centrally heated Hong Kong apartments a challenge. While we at Kwiksure know that heating your space is a must during winter months, the right safety precautions have to be in place to avoid a potentially life-threatening catastrophe. Below, we outline some of the main causes of apartment fires and ways you can prevent setting your apartment ablaze.
Tips on how to prevent fire at home
Most people know the basics of fire safety at home, such as not leaving burning candles unattended. Here are a few more things you can do to prevent fires at your Hong Kong home.
Fire-related home incidents caused by heaters are among the most common ones during winter. When using a portable heater, keep these tips in mind:
- Anything that can melt or burn should be at least 1 meter away from the heater.
- Do not cover the heater with cloths or clothes.
- Never leave small heaters on all day or night, even when you go to sleep, as they may overheat.
- Follow your heater's directions exactly if you are unsure of its proper operation.
- Plug the heater to the main electricity outlet and not one of the extensions to avoid setting it on fire.
A word about electricity circuits
Most people are unaware of how much electricity the items they plug-in use. A good rule of thumb is to consider that anything that produces heat uses a lot of electricity, like toasters, microwaves, and ovens. Make sure not to overload circuits to avoid accidental fires.
Even though candles are not used to heat up the apartments, they help to set a tranquil and mellow atmosphere. Besides the decorative function, candles can be used as a source of light in case of a power shortage, but they're also known to start fires, particularly when left unattended.
Here’s a reminder on how to proceed when dealing with candles:
- Blow out candles before going to sleep and any time you leave your apartment.
- Keep candles at least 30 cm away from other objects.
- Use candle holders and make sure that the surface is flat and away from an edge where it may tip over.
- Opt for flashlights instead of candles in case of a power outage.
If you haven’t installed one, smoke detectors are great items that can notify you of possible danger and give you more time to escape, for example when you and your family are asleep. According to NFPA report results, the death rate per 1,000 reported home fires was more than double in homes that did not have any working smoke alarms, showcasing the importance of installing, and maintaining one.
If you already have one installed, then check your smoke detector in your apartment bi-annually to ensure they're working well. The most common reasons why smoke detectors fail are due to dead batteries.
Cooking & gas stoves
The kitchen is often the center of the house, and many enjoy homemade cooking. However, there may be many potential scenarios where the fire accidentally starts in the kitchen. Especially that approximately 42 percent of all house fires start in kitchens, most often from fires igniting unexpectedly on an unattended stove.
- When cooking over the gas stove, make sure you’ve rolled up your sleeves and tucked any loose-fitting clothing behind an apron.
- Keep clothes, hand towels and paper towels in a place where they won’t accidentally catch fire from the cooking stove.
- Use a timer to remind you that food is cooking. If your microwave or oven doesn't have one, use your phone, or traditional alarm clock.
Besides, check regularly for any gas leakage, and if your stove starts to behave abnormal (such as taking longer to fire up, or you can smell the gas), immediately call special services such as towngas to take a look at it, and make repairs.
Other fire safety considerations
Even though your place might be fire-proof, especially after reading this article, you should be prepared for a fire emergency at all times. It may not happen in your unit, but it could take place right next door. Therefore, we recommend you keep reading about other things to consider when it comes to fire safety measures of your apartment in Hong Kong.
Fire escape routes
Check with your building manager whether or not your building has an escape plan. Knowing escape routes and alternatives ahead of time can be life-saving.
Another thing is to check those fire escape routes, as there are instances of those spaces being cluttered with items that Hongkongers won’t fit in their apartments, making the escape slower, or even impossible due to the road blockage.
Fire and property insurance
While of course, fire insurance alone can’t protect your home from fire, it can help dramatically cover your house or apartment repair expenses and will provide you with compensation in the event of a loss of the house, home components, and even provide temporary housing when needed, if it’s a benefit in the policy.
An additional level of financial protection in an event of fire, flood, hurricane, or burglary comes in the form of home insurance policy, for example in up to HK$1.5 million coverage for home contents and household belongings due to an insured peril. For more information on fire and home insurance, please contact our advisors, or get an online quote here.