Icy blast prompts fire caution

The icy weather is prompting Kiwis to turn on more appliances, increasing the threat of house fires, warns Insurance & Financial Services Ombudsman, (IFSO), Karen Stevens.

Read NewsHub article 28/06/2021 Weather: Kiwis urged to be aware of fire risks as polar blast hits

A polar blast set to sweep across New Zealand is renewing calls for Kiwis to stay fire-wise by making sure they're using appliances safely.

Insurance and Financial Services Ombudsman (IFSO) Karen Stevens says the cold weather is a timely reminder for people to check their use of appliances and their insurance policies.

"Winter brings with it a unique set of fire dangers, with the increased use of open fires, electric blankets, multi plugs and heaters," she says.

Stevens says prevention is the best form of insurance.

"Many fires are preventable. Laundry being dried too close to a heater or open fire, unsafe disposal of fire embers, and failure to remove lint from dryers are all common and preventable causes of fires."

She says that if a fire happens, further heartache comes from underinsurance - something she says is a common problem.

"Many people still don't realise that they're often insured for the value of an item at the time of a fire event. If, for example, your 11-year-old appliances are damaged, you're probably unlikely to receive any compensation, unless you have total replacement insurance," Stevens says.

"Only certain items will be replaced, while many will be depreciated to their present-day value - so considering what you will actually get is important.

"We strongly recommend you ask yourself; 'given the age and condition of my home contents, if I replace everything in my home today, what would it cost?'"

Stevens also recommends people check the terms of their cover.

"Check to see if your policy has an emergency provision if the worst happens and you are literally left standing with the clothes on your back," she says.

"For the home itself, it is important to check the terms of the cover, as most policies have moved from away from 'full replacement' to sum insured cover (the cost to replace your item with a brand-new item rather than the amount that you said your house is worth on the policy schedule)."

She says many insurers have tools to help determine an adequate sum to insure people's contents.

Stevens also recommends all fire alarms are checked.

The Newlands Volunteer Fire Brigade, north of Wellington, also has several recommendations to help people keep themselves safe as the cold weather hits.

They advise:

  • keeping flammable materials at least one metre away from heaters
  • leaving heaters uncovered
  • sleeping with electric blankets turned off
  • not overloading power sockets or multi plugs, since they have the potential to quickly catch fire
  • disposing of ashes in a metal bin and dousing them with water
  • cleaning out the lint catcher in dryers
  • ensuring you have a household escape plan.