The rise in the cost of living across Australia, and in Queensland in particular, has become a pervasive concern for individuals and families alike. Relentlessly rising electricity costs, fuel, food and insurance premiums means less available disposable income. While financial strain is a well-known consequence, a lesser-known and equally pressing issue is the impact of these pressures on residential house fire safety.
As families tighten their budgets to meet basic needs, the temptation to cut corners on home maintenance and safety measures becomes more pronounced. One area where this compromise can have severe consequences is fire safety. Neglecting home fire safety, by not installing or maintaining interconnected photoelectric smoke alarms, can significantly elevate the risk of house fires and leave a family exposed. Faulty appliances, aging electrical panels, outdated wiring and cheap electrical gadgets are other examples of potential fire hazards that may be overlooked in the quest to trim expenses.
In a recent article published in the Courier Mail newspaper, University of Wollongong fire expert Dr Owen Price said the rising cost of living was likely affecting fire risk within homes as many of the steps people could take to protect themselves required money.
“A lot of people realise they are at risk, but they often don’t do anything about it and when cost of living comes in it’s often lowest on people’s priorities,” he said.
Cash strapped families also tended to live in cheaper, older housing, which was more vulnerable to fire, Dr Price said.
Older buildings with outdated fire prevention measures, such as a lack of interconnected photoelectric smoke alarms, or inadequate escape routes can pose a serious threat to residents. In such cases, the cost of living pressures directly translate into compromised safety.
The stress induced by financial strains can also lead to behavioral changes that impact fire safety. Individuals working multiple jobs or long hours may be more prone to fatigue, increasing the likelihood of negligence in daily tasks such as turning off stoves or unplugging electrical devices. Additionally, the inability to afford quality appliances and heating equipment may force individuals to resort to makeshift solutions, elevating the risk of electrical fires.
To mitigate these risks, it is crucial for individuals facing cost of living pressures to prioritize fire safety. This includes installing and maintaining interconnected photoelectric smoke alarms, performing regular checks of electrical systems, investing in quality appliances and avoiding cheap knock offs, and staying vigilant about potential hazards. Public awareness campaigns and community initiatives can further emphasize the importance of fire safety in the face of financial challenges, ensuring that individuals and families can navigate these pressures without compromising their well-being. The QLD Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) free ‘Safehome‘ initiative is one such example. QLD Firefighters will advise you on correct positioning of interconnected photoelectric smoke alarms and discuss fire safety concerns.
By fostering a culture of awareness and not neglecting preventative measures such as interconnected fire alarms, we can ensure that the cost of living crisis doesn’t come at the expense of our most precious asset – our safety and well-being. As Queenslanders, let us renew our commitment to safeguarding homes from the silent threat of fire that lurks within the shadows of the cost of living crisis.