Fire safety tips this Christmas season
10 Dec 2021
Whether you’re spending Christmas Kirihimete at home or heading away, especially with the Auckland border set to open on 15 December, take care not to let fire ruin the festive season says the Insurance Council of New Zealand (ICNZ) Te Kāhui Inihua o Aotearoa.
And just as it pays to minimise the risk of fire, it’s also a good idea to check your insurance policy would pay out enough to rebuild your home in case the worst happens.
“While nobody wants to see their home or possessions lost to fire, nobody then wants to find they are under-insured. Rapidly rising building costs have hit the headlines this year and this means that if your home is insured for a fixed amount in the event of a total loss, you’ll want to ensure your level of cover, or sum insured, is up to date with today’s building costs,” says ICNZ Chief Executive Tim Grafton. “Simply check your policy and call your insurer to discuss if you have enough cover.”
From decorations to BBQs to campfires, there are lots of things that make the festive season special. By taking care and following a few simple steps to prevent fires, we’ll all be better able to enjoy the holidays while keeping ourselves, our whanau and possessions safe. As always, check you have enough smoke detectors and that that they are working. It’s also a very good idea to have a fire extinguisher and fire blanket at home and to be familiar with how to use them ahead of time.
For decorations, the first step is to take care around electrical safety by checking for faulty wiring, avoiding overloads and staying clear of flammable materials. When lighting the BBQ, make sure it’s free of excess fat, don’t leave it unattended and never use it indoors.
When away from home, take a moment to think how you and your whanau could escape from unfamiliar accommodation in the event of a fire. Also, when using a wood or charcoal BBQ, or if planning a campfire, check if this is allowed or a permit is required. Make sure any fires or embers are fully extinguished when you’re done; don’t just bury them as they could reignite.
“While we have insurance to put things right if the worst happens, it’s best to avoid losing your property in the first place, especially due to fire,” said Tim.
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Notes to Editors – fire safety tips
To help keep you safe and cut down the risk of seeing your home or property go up in smoke this festive season the ICNZ has put together a list of Christmas fire safety tips. Also check out the Fire and Emergency website https://www.fireandemergency.nz/ for resources and advice to follow to be fire safe over summer.
Being fire safe with your Christmas tree and decorations
Nothing quite evokes the Christmas spirit like sparkling lights and a decorated tree. Here are some tips to ensure you avoid unwanted fires:
- Check last year’s lights are still safe – look for split or cracked wiring, bent plug prongs or damaged bulbs. If there are any inconsistencies or damage to the lights, do not use them;
- Only use indoor lights inside, and outdoor lights outside;
- Don’t overload plugs, boards and extension leads with too many lights or powered devices – this can cause overheating that can result in fires;
- For outdoor decorations, clear away combustible debris like leaves, overhanging shrubbery, or spider webs before hanging or placing decorations. It also pays to fasten decorations and lights securely to avoid damage from the wind or man-made damages;
- Use an RCD (residual current device) for all outdoor power cords, and dispose of it correctly after a month as they can deteriorate after being exposed to the elements;
- If you are using lights at work, make sure they are tested and tagged before use;
- Choose an artificial tree that’s flame resistant, and select ornaments that are hardy and non-combustible;
- If you have a real Christmas tree place it in a safe place away from extension cords, exits, and flammable objects. Water it regularly to keep it from drying out; and,
- Turn off lights – inside and out – when you go to bed, that includes blowing out any candles.
Seasonal fire safety tips
The holiday season in Aotearoa New Zealand wouldn’t be complete without BBQs and camping trips to make the most of the summer months. With this summer forecast to be warmer and dryer in places there are some important steps to take to remain fire safe.
Staying away from home
- While we’re all familiar with our own homes and how to get out of them in the event of a fire, we won’t be in any new place we’re staying over the holidays. Take a moment to think how you and your whanau would get out in the event of a fire and take note of the position of any fire protection equipment.
- Agree a meeting place in the event of a fire, including if you’re camping.
- Treat your BBQ the same way you would a stove: don't drink and fry and avoid leaving cooking unattended;
- Never use a BBQ indoors;
- Ensure you regularly check and maintain fittings and connections, leave clear space around it, remove nearby debris, and clean excess fat after each use; and,
- If using a charcoal or wood fire BBQ, first check with your local Council for any Fire Permits that may be required on any bans on open fire use. Avoid using if windy. Dispose of ash only after all hot embers are gone (usually 12 hours or more) and be sure to have a fire extinguisher close by.
- Planning to light fireworks over New Years? Don’t if its windy, dry, or if there is a fire ban; and,
- Follow the instructions on the box and keep water or a fire extinguisher handy.
Camping, tramping or hunting:
- Check the Fire and Emergency New Zealand website for fire season conditions and if you need a permit: https://www.firepermit.nz/ACA/Default.aspx
- Find out if there are rules about lighting a fire where you’re camping – if you are allowed choose a site away from tents, vehicles, overhanging branches and anything else that could catch fire;
- Never leave your campfire unattended, and put it out if the wind speed or direction changes and makes it unsafe;
- Douse the fire with lots of water or use dirt to put out the embers. Don’t just bury your campfire as the embers can smoulder and reignite; and,
- If you’re tramping or hunting always check the fire season before you go. Carry a shovel, water and a fire extinguisher if possible. Find more specific hunting advice on Fire and Emergency – hunting (https://www.fireandemergency.nz/recreational-and-cultural/hunting/)