Kiwis urged to check smoke alarm expiration dates

  • 29/03/2018
Mike Shaw, principal advisor for fire risk management in Region 1.
Mike Shaw, principal advisor for fire risk management in Region 1. Photo credit: Newshub.

Kiwis are being urged to check their smoke alarms haven't expired, amidst Fire and Emergency New Zealand's annual appeal for fire safety.

On Sunday, daylight savings kicks in and provides the perfect opportunity to carry out a few simple checks to make sure your smoke alarms are working.

A smoke alarm's expiration date can be checked on the underside or on the side of the alarm.

A lot of Kiwis don't know smoke alarms can expire, Mike Shaw, principal advisor for fire risk management in Region 1, told Newshub.

It's especially important for photoelectric alarms, which don't have replaceable 9V batteries. Instead, the whole alarm has to be replaced after it passes its expiration date.

Mr Shaw said even those who do have smoke alarms may not have installed them properly and with daylight savings about to kick in, it's seen as an excellent time to test and make sure everything works.

"While you're changing the clock, usually you've got to get the ladder out. Use it check your smoke alarms as well," he said.

"If you've got a little 9V battery in it, that's a good time to replace that. If you've got a 10-year battery one, that's a good time to check the expiry date on that."

The expiration date can be found on the side or bottom of the alarm.
The expiration date can be found on the side or bottom of the alarm. Photo credit: Newshub.

For more information on how to check your alarm's expiration date, people are urged to visit the Fire and Emergency New Zealand website. After that, they should check out the Escape Planner to make sure they're prepared in case their alarm does go off.

Another part of the problem is people putting their smoke detectors in the wrong areas. Kitchens are particularly bad, Mr Shaw said, because they'll be set off frequently and residents will take them down so they're less annoying.

Instead, Fire and Emergency New Zealand recommended people install their alarms in the main living areas, bedrooms and stairwells.

"We think about 85 percent [of Kiwis] have a smoke alarm, but we really want every single home to have at least one smoke alarm," Mr Shaw said.

The advice comes after two young children and their parent were lucky to escape from their home when a fire sparked in one of the rooms.

Mr Shaw told Newshub the horrifying incident emphasised the importance of working smoke alarms.

"A house fire can become un-survivable or fatal in as little as five minutes. A small fire starting in a bedroom can engulf a house in less than five minutes," he said.

House fires can become fatal in minutes, Fire and Emergency New Zealand says.
House fires can become fatal in minutes, Fire and Emergency New Zealand says. Photo credit: Newshub.

In this case, the parent had been having a shower while the children played in a different room.

"They were in the shower, heard the sound of the smoke alarm, got out to have a look and were able to just get out of the house unscathed. That's really important and that's the kind of thing we're talking about."

In this case, the family were lucky to make it out with their lives. For others - particularly in homes without working smoke detectors – they might not be so lucky, Mr Shaw said.

"When you're sleeping, you generally won't wake up if there's a fire. Smoke from the fire is toxic; once you start breathing that in while you're asleep, you're just going to go into a deeper sleep. A lot of fatal house fires we go to, people would - in our opinion - be saved if they spent a few dollars on a smoke alarm."

And for those who are about to go out and buy a new alarm, Fire and Emergency New Zealand recommends long-life photoelectric smoke alarms.

"It just gives you that slightly early warning."

For some Kiwis, that early warning could be enough to save their lives.

This article was created for Fire and Emergency New Zealand.