Be fire aware: Home fire prevention
How to plan for and help prevent fire risks at home.
We love the warmer months - beach days, barbecues, and summer holidays with family and friends. But, just because we're no longer using heaters or the fireplace, it doesn't mean the fire danger has subsided.
Spring or summer is a great time to go through a few fire safety checks around the home. While daylight saving is timely reminder to check your smoke alarms, there's a lot more we can do to mitigate the risk. We've put together some tips on how to prevent a fire at home and also how to be prepared in case a fire does break out.
It's a good idea to do these checks every month to help make sure you, your home, and its contents are as safe as possible all year round.
Don't just check them at daylight saving! Get into the habit of monthly smoke alarm tests. Press the test button on all your alarms to see if they're working properly, and replace the batteries if they're not. If you're using 9V batteries, consider replacing them if they're older than six months. If you have older smoke alarms installed, you could replace them with long-life photoelectric smoke alarms, as recommended by Fire and Emergency NZ1.
It's a good idea to install heat alarms in your home, especially in areas where smoke alarms are not as suitable. Cooking can set off a smoke alarm easily (we're looking at you, burnt toast!) so heat alarms are generally recommended in the kitchen.2
It's also worth checking if your home has enough smoke alarms and heat alarms installed, and in all the right places. Check the map here for guidance from Fire and Emergency New Zealand.
You could go a step further and install sprinklers in your home. Sprinklers can be highly effective at controlling a fire, and many firefighters recommend a combination of smoke alarms, heat alarms, and sprinklers as the best fire prevention strategy.3
Check your stuff
Make sure the appliances and contents inside your home are used safely. Pay particular attention to these:
- Clothes dryers: When poorly used and maintained, they can be a fire danger risk. Check out our dryer safety blog on how to use them properly.
- Kitchen cooktops and rangehoods: A clean kitchen is not only nice to have; it's also safer! By keeping your cooking area clear of food scraps, oils, and fats, and making sure the rangehood filter isn't blocked, you'll be reducing your fire risk.4
- Electrical outlets: Ensure your outlets and multi-boxes aren't overloaded. Too many large appliances connected to one outlet can be a recipe for disaster. Read more on how to power up your plugs like a pro.
- Lithium-ion batteries: These can be found in items throughout the home, such as e-bikes, e-scooters, mobile phones, laptops and vapes. But they pose a serious fire risk when they're not used correctly or stored safely. Here's how to use, store and dispose of items with lithium-ion batteries.
- Heat pumps/air conditioning units: A unit that has electrical issues or overheats has the potential to cause a fire. Service your unit at least once a year, including checking all electrical terminals and cleaning the filters, to help reduce the risk.5
- BBQ: Summer calls for delicious barbecues, but make sure to give it a clean before you fire it up. Read our blog on how to maintain your barbecue to prevent a fire hazard.
While you're at it, it's a good idea to be prepared in case the worst happens.
Store a fire extinguisher in a place that is easily accessible (ideally near the kitchen). These can be one of your best defenses in case of a fire emergency. If you do get a fire extinguisher, make sure you learn how to use it properly, so read the instructions carefully.
Another option is to have some fire blankets handy; these are especially good for smaller kitchen fires that involve oil and fats. These also come with instructions (such as placing the fire blanket carefully on the fire rather than throwing it on6) so read up on them beforehand.
Whether you live in a standalone house or an apartment block, it's important for every home to have an escape plan. What's more, make sure the entire household is aware of the plan and knows where to meet once they escape. You can use Fire and Emergency New Zealand's Escape My House to create your unique household escape plan.
As soon as you are safely clear of the building, call 111 Emergency, ask for 'Fire', and state your address.
For more information on fire safety and what to do in an emergency, the Fire and Emergency New Zealand website is a great resource.