As one of Australia’s leading insurance figures, Dr Allan Manning has witnessed countless times the devastating impact serious everyday incidents can have upon small businesses and individuals.
But when his own property was threatened by fire recently, he was forced to reassess the sobering reality of what can go wrong and the best ways to prepare for the worst.
Dr Manning, Managing Director at LMIGroup and one of the industry’s foremost insurance figuresrisk and loan assessors, literally wrote the book (or in this case, 17 books) on the insurance and risk mitigation measures you can take to help protect yourself against everyday hazards.
But even he learned a thing or five when a TV that had been left on ‘standby’ overheated and caught fire in his lounge room on Christmas Day. Only good luck, the right precautions and quick thinking prevented what could have been a disaster.
The fire was brought under control by a fire extinguisher and garden hose before the fire brigade arrived.
“It’s also worth installing carbon monoxide alarms in those rooms that have gas appliances such as a stove, hot water system, central heating or gas fireplaces”
It was a stark lesson in the hidden dangers that lurk in every home and business.
“It was a Christmas to remember. After helping people through home and business fires for nearly 48 years, ‘it did happen to me’,” Dr Manning recalls.
Here are the five lessons he learned from dealing with literally fighting a fire with his own hands.
1. Fire extinguishers do save lives
When Dr Manning shared his story with friends and family, the most common response he heard was “we don’t even have a fire extinguisher”.
Dr Manning recommends you should have at least two medium size extinguishers spread around your business and house so they’re easily accessible.
By having several medium extinguishers, instead of one big one, they are more likely to be near the fire and are easier to operate. You can always grab a second one if you need to.
“I’ve got one in the tool shed, one in the kitchen, one beside my bed and one in the attic,” he says.
2. Install smoke detectors in separate rooms
Dr Manning says he’s extremely grateful the TV failed in his own home and not at his son’s place, as he has two young children.
This leads him to his next piece of advice: install smoke detectors in your children’s bedrooms.
“Unfortunately we’ve seen a number of fires recently where the children have perished,” explains Dr Manning.
“If the fire starts in your child’s bedroom and the door is closed, you won’t know until it’s too late.”
The same logic applies to separate areas of your business where valuable stock or equipment might be. Flames or smoke could destroy them in the event of a fire before you are even aware of what is happening.
Dr Manning also adds it’s also worth installing carbon monoxide alarms in those rooms that have gas appliances such as a stove, hot water system, central heating or gas fireplaces.
3. Don’t lock yourself in
In recent times we’ve become so fearful of home invasions that we’ve beefed up security in our homes, says Dr Manning.
“But that means, particularly for elderly Australians, that they often get caught in their home in the event of an emergency,” he explains.
“So if you dead lock your windows or doors make sure you still have a key in each door at night.”
In his event, Dr Manning discovered that painters had recently painted his windows shut.
“After I turned the power off, I wanted to bring a water hose in through the window, but I couldn’t open the window,” he says.
“If the fire had been more advanced, it would have been bad situation.”
4. Every home and business should have a fire blanket
This wasn’t an issue Dr Manning had to deal with on the night, but his experience did result in him reflecting on other common household and business fires.
“A lot of the fires are caused by fat fires on stoves – something’s been left on the stove and people go to the front door or get sidetracked by their kids,” explains Dr Manning.
“When they come back, they’ll see a fire and put water on it, which only causes it to expand by 1,700 times and become a superheated steam that sprays hot oil all over the place.”
A more practical solution is to immediately turn the gas or electricity off, says Dr Manning, and then spread a fire blanket over the top.
“That does the trick and it’s really safe,” he says.
5. Purchase good quality insurance sourced via an insurance broker
Finally, Dr Manning says you simply cannot go past top quality insurance.
“People just don’t value insurance until it’s too late. Fortunately, I had a top notch policy,” he explains.
He adds it’s vital that you source your insurance through a trusted broker.
“Insurance is complicated. So people should definitely use an insurance broker, even for their business and their home. Not all Business Insurance, Business Interruption Insurance or Home and Contents Insurance options are the same,” he says.
“So, you need the expertise of a broker to give you the right advice. And typically the brokers will negotiate better quality coverage for you as well as backing you up in the event of a claim.”
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