Fire safety in the home: four key ingredients

So you’ve read our previous blog and decided to buy some smoke detectors for your home. Good stuff. But is there more you can do? Other than ‘buy another smoke detector’? The answer is most definitely ‘yes’.

The NZ Fire Service website has a list of stuff you can get to protect your home from all sorts of fires. Other than the good ol’ smoke detector they also recommend sprinklers, fire extinguishers and fire blankets.

I must be honest and admit I hadn’t heard of the last one. What is it exactly? A blanket made entirely from fire? A visit to the New Zealand Fire Service website quickly set me straight. While I was there, I thought I’d take a look at their other recommended weapons in the ongoing fight against fire.


Smoke detectors

Cavius smoke alarm

Every home should have them. In fact, by law, every residential property owner has to have them installed – so if you’re renting, your landlord ought to have taken care of that for you. If you’ve moved in and found the previous tenants have nicked off with them, tell your landlord immediately.

So what are the best detectors to have? We’re not giving away Cavius’ photoelectric ones for nothing. Well in one sense we are (enter now!) but anyway, these kind of alarms (as we said in the last episode) detect smoldering fires better than their ionisation counterparts. Smoke can kill long before the fire itself – so having smoke detectors that, you know, detect smoke, is pretty vital.

That is not to say the other alarms are no good – any alarm is better than none. If money is the issue, consider this: while photoelectric detectors are more expensive up front, you ultimately pay around the same overall as you need to replace the battery far less often than with an ionisation detector. If you have them ‘hardwired’ – that is, connected to the mains – there’s no need for batteries at all.

Once you have your alarms it’s good to know where to install them. The Fire Service suggests on the ceilings of “every bedroom, living area and hallway”, and discourage putting them in the kitchen or bathroom, unless they’re specifically designed for those rooms.


Fire extinguishers

John Cena fire extinguisher

Don’t try this at home.

Want to stop a small fire from becoming a biggy? Fire extinguishers are handy in such cases.

They are not miracle workers though, which is why the Fire Service suggests not using one until everyone is evacuated. Better to stay alive and lose your house than die trying to be a hero.

They can also backfire badly if you use the wrong kind for the wrong fire. Check out the chart on this page for which extinguisher is best for you.

In short, the most likely scenario you’ll encounter – the ones that account for around 25 percent of all house fires – is a cooking oil or fat fire in the kitchen. In these cases you’ll want to use a wet chemical extinguisher. If you want to guard against all kinds of fires, buy yourself a dry powder extinguisher too. Keep them in or near the kitchen.



Sprinklers are, as the Fire Service says, “like having a firefighter in every room” of your house. Even better, they’re far lower maintenance – and somewhat less creepy – than having an actual firefighter standing in every room of your house.

How effective are sprinklers? According to research I waded my way through (hint: skip to page eight), the survival rate increases between 80 and 96 percent in dwellings where both sprinklers and smoke detectors are installed. They can also reduce fire damage from $42,000, in an average house fire sans sprinklers, to around $2,000.

It’s easiest to install sprinklers in houses while they’re being built, but they can be fitted into existing homes too. The Fire Service video below shows just how effective alarms and sprinklers can be in containing house fires. Check out their specialist sprinkler website for more info.


Fire blankets


These are blankets specifically designed for covering – and thus putting out – small cooking fires. Should the worst happen and someone catches fire, you can also throw it over them. They’re usually made from glass fibre as well, so that settles that question.

These blankets act exactly as you’d expect – they cut off oxygen to the flames and smother them. They can also be used as a cover to escape through flames if need be.

Fire blankets can be bought from several outlets including Firewatch, Womald and Chubb.


Over to you

Buying and installing smoke detectors is a no-brainer. Getting at least one out of the other three can go a long, long way to saving you money and – most importantly, lives.

What would be first on your shopping list: sprinklers, fire blankets or an extinguisher? Let us know in the comments or over on our Facebook page!

One thought on “Fire safety in the home: four key ingredients

  1. Pingback: Fire safety campaign: a wrap up, and some important links | Open2view

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