Fire safety measures urged as winter nears

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by Greta Yeoman

Having working smoke alarms, a fire evacuation plan and being conscious of fire risks are all part of remaining safe this winter, Fire and Emergency New Zealand (Fenz) fire risk manager Craig Chambers says.

Mr Chambers said people should have smoke alarms, as their sense of smell switched off when sleeping. Photo-electric alarms were recommended as they gave up to 10 years’ protection without batteries having to be changed.

He advised people to have an escape plan in case of fire and determine one or two escape routes from each room in their house. People, especially those with children, should practise their escape plan, and designate a place outside for everyone to meet.

Mr Chambers said residents should check out the www.escapemyhouse.co.nz website, which showed how to escape in case of a fire and how fast flames could spread.

People should also clean their chimneys before use and remember that while putting ashes in a metal bucket was best practice, they should also wait several days before putting them in a bin because ashes could take up to five days to fully cool down.

Electric blankets should also be checked annually and Fenz recommended replacing them every five years. People should turn off their electric blankets while sleeping and follow the metre-from-the-heater rule.

This was important for both heaters and fires, because items placed near heat sources could catch fire if they got too hot.

He also reminded people not to overload power boards, and especially not to link one power board to another one.

Clothes-dryer usage also increased during winter and people were reminded to clear their machines of lint between loads as lint could catch fire when the dryer was in use.

It was also important to put candles in a candle holder to catch any wax, keep flames well away from combustible materials such as curtains and never to leave burning candles unattended, Mr Chambers said.

Rural property owners were advised to ensure there was clear access to their properties in case of a fire and ensure their rapid numbers were clearly visible from the road.

Having an accessible water source, such as a pool, was also a good idea, or if they could afford it, putting in external access taps into their water tanks.

For more information on fire safety for both rural and urban properties, go online to www.fireandemergency.nz.