Warm and Fuzzy in Winter. Without the burn.

The cold days and chilly nights bring with them a passionate love affair with heaters, fireplaces and electric blankets, as South Africans seek refuge from winter. While heaters and electric blankets come with high electricity bills, this increased use of heating sources brings with it an increased fire risk, further worsened by regular load shedding intervals, neither of which can be avoided.

We know that hot water bottles do the trick of making sure you jump into a bed that’s already been warmed up. We know that your children falling asleep in your bed before you tuck them into their own, can do the same. But for some of us, we just need that extra dollop of warm and cosy to beat the bite of winter’s cold.

Whatever you do, please don’t be tempted to leave your heater unattended – left to ‘its own devices’,  your heater will show you flames. Literally.

As an insurer, of course, we’re concerned about preventing fire damage of any kind, to your home and its contents. But the ‘contents’ we care most about is you and your loved ones.

So, we thought we’d offer you a few tips on how to keep warm during winter and keep those flames at bay:

1.    Layer Up
Layers of clothing not only help insulate your body, so instead of that skinny vest under your jacket, add another ‘body hugger’ long-sleeve tee. If at some point, you feel like you’re in a sauna, peel away at your layers, like you would with an onion, and keep removing one item of clothing till you’re comfortable.

2.    Rock Your Socks and Slippers
Those Father’s Day socks are so underrated, even if one sock always disappears in the wash! Even if they are on-paar (mismatched), socks make a huge difference if you live in a home with cold floors. Pair it with some funky slippers to make sure the cold doesn’t catch you from the bottom up. Just don’t go to selected supermarkets in your slippers – they have been outlawed in certain places!

3.    Get a’Cooking
Ja, you heard that right! Cooking or baking in your kitchen warms up your home. Pull out all those Nataniel and Chef Siba’s recipes, download those lekke entertaining TikTok videos and bring on some mouthwatering heat with a few delicious treats. Oh, and leave the oven door open after baking – that wafting hot air and aromas are guaranteed to score you a few brownie points!

4.    Become a DIY Firefighter
A working fire extinguisher is a must-have in every home and can be a lifesaver in the event of an electric short circuit or a rogue spark. You and all members of your family must know how to use it in the event of an emergency, and it’s up to you to make sure your fire extinguisher is always in working order. Get it checked by a registered technician annually – it’s a valid reason to befriend your local firemen!

Your insurer may not require a fire extinguisher to be in place for you to enjoy household cover, but it will certainly come in handy should the sparks fly.

5.    Get your home fires burning. Safely.
Don’t start a fire unless your fireplace is equipped with a protective screen – it acts as a barrier in the event of flying sparks, which can quickly ignite carpets or curtains. And while we know there’s nothing better than the sound of a crackling fire to put you to sleep, it’s best not to use your fireplace for more than five hours at a time to prevent overheating. Also remember, flesh burns so don’t try to be a hero by handling burning logs or coals with your bare hands.

6.    If you can’t take the heat(er)…
When it comes to using an electric or gas heater, social distancing applies. Make sure to keep it at least one metre away from any flammable materials, particularly furniture and curtains. If you're using a gas heater, try to leave a window or door slightly open to prevent the possibility of carbon monoxide build-up. If you're using an electric heater, make sure that it is turned off before heading to bed. In the event of load shedding or an unexpected power outage, make sure the power supply is switched off. Remember, no matter what kind of heater you're using, it's best not to move it whilst hot – instead, switch off the device and allow some time to cool before moving it.

7.    Handle with XXX Care
Paraffin is a much like our weather’s been: Volatile. So when you’re using a paraffin heater, please handle with extreme care.  When filling the heater, make sure to use high-grade fuel and to do so outside, away from children.

Whether you're using candles to keep the dark at bay, or to fan your romantic flames with a romantic candlelit dinner, make sure to keep your candles are in sturdy, non-combustible holders, far from curtains, fabric or any other flammable materials.

8.    Embrace the Pits…the right way
If you're looking to fire things up outdoors, make sure your firepit or braai-spot is surrounded by non-combustible materials like brick or sand. And if you really must ‘kuier’ around the fire, avoid plastic chairs, which represent a greater fire hazard. Don’t your outdoors fire near trees or any overhanging thatch, and asseblief mense, keep a hose nearby in case you need to extinguish stray burning embers.

9.    Send smoke signals
Smoke detectors go a long way towards preventing potentially devastating fires, and offers you an advanced warning system which will allow you to act before things get out of control. Check out your local hardware and homeware stores, and if your budget allows, why not get one of those fancy ones that come with built-in spray systems?

No matter how you're planning to heat things up this season, it's always best to be prepared.

Get through winter, your way.
Warm. And safe.


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