Below is some basic fire safety and smoke alarm information.

For more detailed fire safety information, advice and assistance with selecting, placing or fitting smoke alarms please contact the Wellington and Porirua regional fire safety officer:

Russell Postlewaight - Phone 04 237 6939 Fax 04 237 4162

Alternately you can visit the NZ Fire Service website at

"Smoke Alarm Saves The Day"

A Grenada Village family can thank their luck today to a hard wired smoke alarm monitored by a security firm. At about 1030 this morning (Monday March 24) the fire service was notified of an alarm activation in a house in Curacao Pl. Fire fighters from Newlands were first on the scene and could smell burning from inside the house. After having to break into the house a pot was found burning on the stove. Although damage was confined to the stove top and pot, the rest of the house was smoke logged. " Had it not been for the smoke alarm the outcome could have been a lot worse" said Newlands Fire Chief Tony Swain.
This Months Fire Safety Message...

Plan to Get Out ALIVE! Smoke Alarms

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How does a Smoke Alarm work?

A smoke alarm monitors the air from smoke, and the invisible particles produced by combustion.  It sounds an alarm when it detects them.

Two types are available:

Ionisation Smoke Alarms

An ionisation smoke alarm measures the reduction of an electric current when smoke particles enter the ionisation chamber.   The reduction in current triggers the alarm.  This type of smoke alarm contains a minute radioactive source.

Optical Smoke Alarms

An optical smoke alarm contains a small photo electric cell which triggers the alarm when a beam of light is either interrupted or obscured by smoke particles.

Which type is better?

Both are effective and it is a matter of personal choice.

The Fire Service recommends only those smoke alarms which have certification under the following manufacturing specifications:

ULC S531

Check the packaging to make sure you are buying an alarm with a recommended specification.

How are Smoke Alarms powered?

Usually smoke alarms are fitted with a 9 volt battery. Smoke models are hard wired into the electrical circuit of the house.

How should Smoke Alarms be mounted?

Smoke rises, filling the highest areas of a house first.  Therefore smoke alarms work best when mounted on the ceiling or high on a wall.

Refer to the manufacturer's instructions or NZS 4514:1989 The Installation of Smoke Alarms.

How many Smoke Alarms do I need?

Install smoke alarms in every sleeping area and on every level.

What room's should the smoke alarms go in?

A single alarm should be placed in the hallway by the sleeping areas.   Additional alarms should be placed in the living areas and in the bedroom/s.

Multi storey homes should have at least one alarm on each level.

The manufacturer's instructions provide information on how to get the best coverage.

Note: Do not put smoke alarms in the kitchen, bathroom or garage unless the alarm is specifically designed for such use.  The smoke, steam and fumes which occur in these rooms will constantly set a 'regular' model off.


As with all safety appliances, smoke alarms need to be maintained in good working order.

Smoke alarms are fitted with a test button to check the unit is operating.  When the button is pressed the alarm should sound.

Lack of alarm can mean that the batteries are flat, missing, or not properly fitted.   Check these things before assuming a malfunction in the unit.

If the alarm is hard wired and the alarm does not 'test' properly, check fuses and wiring.

Test the alarm regularly, according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Batteries need to be replaced at least once a year.  A helpful hint can be to mark the date on the calendar - or set aside one day each year - such as the start of daylight savings, to replace batteries.

Most smoke alarms have an in-built feature to alert you should the battery start to go flat.  The unit will sound periodically for short bursts.  If you are buying a new smoke alarm be sure the model has this feature.

Smoke alarms need cleaning regularly to remove dust and cobwebs.  (Refer to manufacturer's instructions.)

What should I do if the alarm sounds?

The value of a smoke alarm in early warning of a fire.  Those few minutes are vital to get out of the house safely.

By having an Exit Drill In The Home (E.D.I.T.H) planned before an emergency you are your family will know what to do in a stressful and frightening situation.


  • Draw a sketch of your home and show two exit ways from each room.
  • Appoint someone to be responsible for the young, elderly or those with disabilities in your family.
  • Have somewhere to meet safely outside (such as the letterbox).
  • Know how to call the Fire Service on 111 from a safe telephone.
  • Practice your E.D.I.T.H. regularly.

In a fire remember to:

  • crawl low in smoke
  • close doors behind you if possible
  • use the stairs - not the lifts
  • care for others less able or mobile
  • get out and STAY OUT