Fire safety campaign: a wrap up, and some important links

We’re nearing the end of the final, climatic week of our fire safety campaign, so it’s time to wrap everything up into one neat little package.

If you’re new, here’s what we’ve done so far:

So what’s the deal with our smoke alarm giveaway? Where we explain why we chose Cavius’ smoke detectors to give away as prizes. Over these past four weeks we’ve given away 36 with just four to go. Entries close Thursday 5pm; if you haven’t entered yet, just head to our Facebook page.

Fire safety in the home: Four key ingredients What four products/gizmos do you need to have in your house to minimise the risk, and effects, of a house fire? Click the link and all will be revealed.

Balloons Over Waikato gets a Chief response Not a great deal of fire safety information here, but rather an interesting interview with the pilot of a hot air balloon tribute to the 343 firefighters who lost their lives on 11 September, 2001. This was one of the star attractions at this year’s Balloons Over Waikato.

We’ll use this last post to alert you to a few more, very important, fire safety links worth reading.

Make your own escape plan

The Fire Service website has a feature where you can design and print off an escape plan for your home or office. It’s nice and easy to use: draw a map of your place, put in the walls, furniture, doors and windows, and use the arrows to point out the best escape points.

Here’s one I’ve done for my office:

Fire escape plan office

And here’s one I’ve done for Big Ted and Jemima et al:

Escape plan for Play School

Come on guys, get Firewise


You know the jingle, now check out the official website. Get Firewise contains a whole swag of free stuff for teachers, from pre-school to secondary, to help educate students about fire safety.

The website itself focuses mostly on the Year 1 and 2 programme. Topics include how to call 111, handing matches and lighters to adults, and what sound a fire alarm makes. Sounds simplistic, perhaps, but think back to when you were five and six – would you know what to do if you found a lighter on the floor, or if your toaster caught alight?

Fire Awareness and Intervention Programme (FAIP)

If you know children who have difficulty answering the above questions, this programme might be for them. FAIP is designed for people under 18 who have tendencies to inappropriately light fires.

This usually voluntary programme is delivered in the home by a trained firefighter over the course of several weeks, and it has a massive 98 percent success rate.

The last publicly available statistics on youth fire-lighting are from 2008 and they are, frankly, a little confusing. What is clear, however, is there are enough such incidents to keep the programme busy.

If you know of someone who would benefit from the programme you can download the referral form here. It’s effective, and it’s free.

Cavius Smoke Detectors

Cavius smoke alarm in hand

We gotta put in one more good word for these guys.

Cavius’ world’s smallest photoelectric smoke detectors are fantastic if you’re sick of false alarms, tired of paying for new batteries every year or you’re after an alarm that isn’t a complete eyesore.

Check out their website for more information on the detector and details of where you can buy some of your own. Thanks Cavius, especially Peter and Steve, for your support.

One more reason to take notice

Fire in Hamilton after

This recent Hamilton fire is, alas, a prime example of what we’re trying to help stamp out, as these excerpts illustrate:

A lighter left handy for child’s play sparked a fire that ripped into a Hamilton family home today and damaged the entire building.

No smoke detectors were installed and it is understood a four-year-old raised the alarm.

…”All she said she saw was a little flame on a blanket and she went to the bathroom to get a bucket of water to put it out,” Mr Aldridge said.

”By the time she got back it was up in flames. It happened that quick.”

A small fire can take hold so very quickly. Smoke detectors could have alerted the family – who were outside at the time – sooner. If the four year old had panicked, or the fire had started while people were asleep, who knows how bad the outcome might have been.

If you do nothing else, please buy and install smoke detectors. If you’re serious about both fire safety and avoiding false alarms, buy the photoelectric kind – the Fire Service recommends them and so do we.

We’ve heard, over the past four weeks, plenty of anecdotes from readers and Facebook followers about friends and families who either had lucky escapes or lost everything due to lack of preparation.

At Open2view we spend most of our working week inside your homes, so home safety is something we all care greatly about. We certainly hope you enjoyed this series of articles and learned a few new tricks. And if not, this song shall serve as punishment:

Balloons Over Waikato gets a Chief response

Chief Responder ove Waikato

Open2view’s Emi Lardone snapped some photos of the Chief Responder during the festival’s first event, the Hamilton City Ascension. Click on each image for a larger view.

Balloons Over Waikato 2013 has officially lifted off. This, the nation’s biggest and most colourful hot air ballooning festival, runs until this Sunday and features school visits, tethered rides, plenty of flights and a fireworks display.

One assumes the balloons will be on the ground during the latter.

Arguably the most interesting balloon of the lot comes from Glen Falls in New York State. ‘Chief Responder’ is the Monahan brothers’ tribute to those New York City firefighters who lost their lives on 11 September 2001.


Chief Responder in full flight over the US.

When the balloon was purchased from Brazil it came with a regular Fire Chief badge on the fireman’s hat. New owners Todd Monahan and his twin brother Scott replaced it with something more poignant: an image of New York firefighters righting an American flag in rubble, with the Twin Towers standing tall in the background. The balloon carries the ID number 343 – the number of firefighters who died that day.

Todd, balloon pilot and owner of Monahan Airways, explained to Open2view via email why he created this giant floating tribute.

“Being from New York was one of the biggest reasons; we all remember where we were that day and time,” he says.

Todd was studying four and a half hours down the road at the State University of New York when the planes hit.

“I was walking out of my class at SUNY Oswego and heard everyone talking about it. I thought people were mistaken so I ran back to my dorm room, where my roommates had it on three different TVs, and couldn’t believe what was happening before my eyes. I was glued to the television for the next couple of days amazed something like this could actually happen.”

Chief Responder grey Hamilton sky

The reaction from firefighters, be they from New York or elsewhere, has been “absolutely amazing. We see New York Firefighters all over the world who admire this particular balloon. The feeling we get when we are able to talk with them puts goose bumps on our arms.”

On one occasion, in New Mexico, a spectator walked up and removed the pilot’s cap – only to replace it with his own, an official New York Fire Department hat.

Todd’s love affair with hot air balloons formed during his youth, when he could often be seen on his bike trying to chase them down. Shortly after graduating he decided to follow his dream and become a full time balloon pilot.

His training “took place in Albuquerque, New Mexico, site of the world’s largest balloon festival. My twin brother and I started attending festivals all around the world and thought it would be neat to buy a special shape balloon together.” This was when the Monahans bought Clown-N-Around, which came here for the 2011 festival.

Monahan Airways’ fleet of novelty-shaped balloons always gets a big reaction from audiences, which is why Todd prefers them to their oval counterparts. “The novelty never wears off,” he says, “because there is a special roar with every crowd.”

Balloons over Waikato

Pursuing a career that satisfies one’s adrenalin rush truly is living the dream life. That Todd gets to pay tribute to his heroes in the process is a definite bonus.

Chief Responder, he says, “symbolises so much more than flying for fun in a special shape balloon. This represents all the lives that were lost on that day.”

In full flight, the balloon is an amazing and uplifting sight.

Balloons Over Waikato runs from now until Sunday 7 April. Check out their website and Facebook page for the programme and updates. And if you wish to track the balloons without using your bike, follow their progress online via Smartrak.

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!

So what’s the deal with our smoke alarm giveaway?

burning house

Hello there. Just thought we’d tell you a little bit about our fire safety promotion; specifically why we’re doing it and why we’ve chosen Cavius smoke detectors as prizes.

Didn’t know we were running a giveaway and you’d like to enter? If you’re reading this before 12 April and live in New Zealand, just head to the Open2view Facebook page, click on the ‘Win with Cavius’ app and follow the instructions. If you’re reading this afterwards, sorry – but check out our page anyway because it’s plenty interesting.

We enjoy giving away stuff to those who like us. But why, in this instance, have we chosen this particular prize?

Cavius smoke alarm in hand

Our primary business is real estate photography. This means we get to photograph and film thousands of homes up for sale every year. Home safety, therefore, is at the forefront of our collective mind.

Here’s some scary facts for you: every year the New Zealand Fire Service attends more than 3500 residential fires. Of these, over 80 percent of homes either had no smoke alarms fitted, or they weren’t working.

That? Is just staggering.

So over the next few weeks we’re going to do something about it – by sharing some fire safety tips, and by giving away some of these cool little smoke detectors.

Now, what’s so great about these particular ones?

First of all they just so happen to be the smallest in the world. They measure a tiny 41mm high and 49mm in diameter. They’re smaller than a field mouse and they only squeak when it’s really serious.

cavius dimensions

You design or arrange your room to be as attractive as possible, only to have to put up a large eyesore of a smoke alarm on the ceiling. Frustrating, right? Cavius smoke detectors are much more aesthetically pleasing than their standard larger counterparts so you can put one up and forget you even have an alarm for the next five years.

Oh yeah, that’s the other thing: these detectors’ batteries last five whole years before they need replacing. That’s far, far longer than your average alarm. When the batteries do start getting weak, they’ll alert you 30 days before dying.

Smoke alarms are the opposite of children: they should be heard but not seen. Like newborn babies, however, these alarms are tiny but very loud. At 85 decibels from a distance of three metres there’s no chance of sleeping through anything when one of these go off. Again, just like a newborn.

Finally, Cavius’ photoelectric detectors are much less likely to give off false alarms. If cooking dinner or having a shower causes your regular, ionisation smoke alarms to start beeping, you’re more likely to want to remove the batteries and leave them out. Not so great if the pan catches alight or the shower starts spraying fire.

Photoelectric alarms, like the ones we’re giving away, are activated by smoke entering the alarm’s sensing chamber and changing the electrical balance.  They are consistently better at detecting smoldering fires than their ionisation counterparts. These types of fires can kill before the flames even start flaming. In layman’s terms, they trigger fewer false alarms and are more responsive to real fires.

The New Zealand Fire Service recommends people install photoelectric fire alarms in every bedroom, living area and hallway in your house. Through our giveaway, we’re getting 40 of you started.

We already received some interesting messages via Facebook about the importance of fire safety. This one from Bex Dixon particularly stood out:

The last four rental properties we have lived in didn’t have smoke alarms so we have purchased some for each property and left them when moving out. A shame that landlords don’t seem to care enough to fit them!

A dreadful shame – and a great gesture from Bex that could potentially save lives.

We also received this comment from Trish Monk:

Our hall heater caught fire nearly 2 years ago mid winter. Turns out our then 18 month old posted a pen through the wide slots. Plastic melted… fire started slowly. Smoke alarm went off. Thankful as heater was in hallway on wall outside our son’s room.

We replaced it that day with a newer style panel heater. Old one was binned. Smoke alarms DO save lives.

They sure do – and we encourage you to not only enter our competition, but to install some Cavius smoke detectors in your homes – and check out our next few blogs for some fire safety tips.

Do you have a similar anecdote? Feel free to share with us in the comments below or on our Facebook page. Or drop us a line if you’d wish to share but would rather remain anonymous.