Firefighters urging people to take extra care around use of electronics

Fire and Emergency New Zealand

Firefighters urging people to take extra care around use of electronics

Fire and Emergency New Zealand is urging people to be vigilant around their use of electronics and other potential fire hazards.

Last night, the organisation conducted a controlled house burn in Palmerston North to draw attention to the issue and demonstrate how quickly fire can spread.

Its national advisor for fire risk management, Peter Gallagher, says it takes less than five minutes for a house fire to become unsurvivable.

"In fact, a room can be entirely engulfed in flames in as little as a minute and a half. That’s why it’s so important people know what could potentially start a fire in their home, and how they can be prepared if one should break out," he says.

Photo source: Alex White

Of the 3140 house fires fire crews responded to last year, more than 900 were because people didn’t look while they cooked, while 435 fires were due to electrical faults or failure, or the way people used electrical devices.

"The number one cause of avoidable house fires has long been unattended cooking, but firefighters have noticed an emerging trend of electronics and electrical appliances being used incorrectly and sparking a fire. While most electrical appliances will operate safely when used the right way, incorrect use can cause them to overheat, which sometimes leads to fires," Mr Gallagher says.

"Leaving laptops, tablets and phones charging while snuggled amongst duvets and other bedding can block their air vents, creating a risk of overheating and potentially starting a fire."

Mr Gallagher says people should always use the right charger supplied with the device, and ensure it is in a well ventilated location, especially if they leave it charging overnight.

"As the use of these devices become more commonplace, it’s crucial people know how to use them properly so they can avoid starting a fire."

"Overloaded power sockets is also another issue and we want to remind people not to overload any power sockets or multi-boxes with double adapters. One appliance should be used per power socket."

He advises people to ensure appliance cords are in good condition and aren’t frayed, and not to put them under carpets or mats, which can lead to damage and overheating.

"It’s about changing people’s behaviour, rather than the appliances or electronics themselves. It’s what people do, or fail to do with them, that creates the fire risk."

He says the house burn also demonstrated the importance of having working smoke alarms installed.

"Smoke alarms will give you early warning if there’s a house fire, and that early detection is lifesaving."

Mr Gallagher says people’s best protection is to have working long-life photoelectric smoke alarms in every bedroom, living area and hallway in their home.

The house used for the burn was earmarked for demolition in an area that is being redeveloped, and it was offered to Fire and Emergency for an exercise and to raise awareness around fire safety.

It was filmed live on TVNZ’s Seven Sharp and was streamed on the Fire and Emergency Facebook page.