Fire safety at home
How to stay fire safe at home no matter what season it is.
As the weather gets colder, it's important to stay fire safe
During the cooler winter months, many of us use lots of different heating sources at home to keep warm and dry. Come summer time, we crank up the BBQ to enjoy the warmer weather with friends and family.
Keeping your home fire safe is essential year round and we must be prepared in case of a house fire.
From mid-2020 until mid-2021, there were 5,310 structure fires in New Zealand.1 Sadly, during the same period there were 14 avoidable residential fire fatalities, of which three were in homes where there was no working smoke alarm.2 While your property and possessions can usually be replaced, human lives cannot. This is why it's so important to make sure your home is fire safe to keep you and your loved ones out of harm's way.
Please set aside some time to read our fire safety checklist below. Stay safe, and visit the Fire and Emergency New Zealand website for more information on New Zealand fire safety at home and outdoors.
Working smoke alarms and an escape plan
Having working smoke alarms and an escape plan will greatly increase your chances of getting out safely if a fire breaks out.3 You can't smell smoke when you are asleep, but you can hear your smoke alarm. Every second counts in an emergency.
- Press the test button on your smoke alarm/s to check they are working. If not, change the batteries or replace the alarm. Fire and Emergency New Zealand recommends installing long-life photoelectric smoke alarms.4
- Check the expiry date on your smoke alarm, usually located on the bottom or side of the alarm. If there's no expiry date, it's best to replace the alarm.
- Clean the smoke alarms with a vacuum if you haven’t done so in the last six months, to remove dust and any insects.
- Create an escape plan, and discuss it with your whole family so everyone knows the best ways out in the event of a fire. It's easy to do this online, just visit the Escape My House website.
Cooking in the kitchen5
- Unattended cooking fires counted for 24 percent of all New Zealand structure fires in the last five years.6
- Don't drink and fry. If you're planning on having a few drinks or you're taking certain medications, prepare your meal in advance, get takeaways or use the microwave.
- A clean kitchen reduces the risk of fire hazards like grease, fat and burnt food crumbs from building up. Clean your range hood filters regularly.
- Be sure to stay in the kitchen while your food is cooking. If you need to leave the room, turn off the stove first.
- Having a fire extinguisher near the kitchen is a good idea. It's important that you know how to use it if needed. You can find one at your local hardware store.
- You should follow the same rules cooking with a BBQ as you do when cooking in the kitchen - don't drink and fry or leave the BBQ unattended.
- Check your BBQ fittings regularly. You can use the soap bubble test to make sure there are no leaks.7
- Leave plenty of clear space around the BBQ, making sure there's nothing nearby that could catch fire. Children must be supervised at all times.
- Clean out grease traps or drip trays regularly to minimise grease fires.
Heaters and clothes dryers8
- Check your heater before you plug it in. If you think your heater might be faulty, get it checked by a qualified repairer or get it replaced.
- Don't overload power points or power boards - stick to one heater per plug.
- Keep everything one metre away from your heater - the 'heater metre' rule makes it easy to remember.
- Don't cover heaters or hang/store items over the top of your heater.
- If you're using an outdoor heater, make sure the area where you're using the heater is level, well ventilated and away from awnings and anything else that might catch fire.
- Make sure your clothes dryer is properly ventilated, don't overload it, and clean the lint filter after each cycle.
- You shouldn't leave your dryer running while you're out. It's a good idea to turn off your dryer at the wall socket when it's not in use.9
Fireplaces and chimneys10
- Check your chimneys and flues (the pipe or tube which connects your chimney with outside) before you light your first fire of the season. Be sure to clean your fireplaces and chimneys regularly.
- A well built fire guard or fire screen should always be used in front of open fires.
- Ashes from your fireplace and chimney can stay hot enough to start a fire for up to 5 days. Always empty ashes into a metal bin and pour water over them before throwing them away.
- Remember to supervise children in rooms with open fires at all times. Keep matches and lighters out of their reach.
Electric blankets11 and wheat bags12
- Check your electric blanket is in good working condition and safe to use. If there is wear and tear, get it checked by an electrician or replace it with a new heat-protected model.
- Don't place heavy objects on the bed while the electric blanket is turned on.
- Electrical fires are often caused by twisted cords. Make sure your electric blanket is tightly secured and laid flat on the bed. Check that the controls and cords aren't twisted together or caught between the mattress and base.
- Turn off electric blankets when you’re not at home and before getting into bed.
- When not being used, store your electric blanket safely rolled up not folded.
- Electric blankets are not recommended for use by babies or young children as “bed-wetting” may occur.
- Never use wheat bags in bed and follow the manufacturer's instructions on how to heat your wheat bag safely in the microwave.
Candles13 and cigarettes14
- Keep candles well away from curtains with open windows and put them out when you leave the room. An adult should be present at all times when a candle is being used.
- Extinguish cigarettes properly before disposal and never smoke in bed. It’s extremely dangerous.
This advice is general in nature. The information provided is not professional or legal advice. Specific advice should be sought from qualified professionals in respect of your own situation. Tower does not accept any liability for the accuracy or content of information on this website that belongs to third parties or on any third-party website.