skip to main content
Site banner


Fire Safety - A Blog

Robert Day

November 2021


At this time of the year, fire isn’t something that I’m thinking about much.  I’m not thinking about burning my dead branches pile (as I’ve done that), I’m not thinking about it to warm myself (we have a gas fire but use heatpumps mostly) and I’m not thinking about the risk of wild fire racing across the upwind paddocks from the railway line in a nor’wester – that’s something I think about later in summer! 

However, despite that, it’s always a good time to think about fire that could start somewhere in your guest house, risking not only your own and your families lives but equally importantly, the lives of your paying guests.

So – how do we make ourselves and guests safe in the event of a fire?

  1. Prior to the fire – let them know what to do if there is one
  2. In the event of a fire – have a way of alerting yourself that there is one and a way of alerting guests
  3. Have a safe method to leave the burning building for each guest (will any guests need assistance?)
  4. Have a pre-arranged safe place for guests and yourselves to meet so you can quickly check if anyone is missing.
  5. Refreshers




Prior to an emergency

If you can think back far enough – you might remember being on a flight to anywhere.  Prior to pushback and taxiing, the cabin crew talk you through the steps to follow in the event of an emergency (a card to read, oxygen, emergency exits front and rear, where to go etc.).  They don’t expect you to remember exactly what to do – they expect to yell further step by step instructions in the unlikely event.  Likewise you don’t need to go through the steps in detail (there is no exam) but as part of introducing your guest to their room, point out the fire safety plan on the back of the door or on the wall, point out the exit to the outside that is closest to their room and mention the meeting point in the garden or carpark.

Ribbonwood was designed as a single storey home to take advantage of the space we had to built on, this resulted in each of the guest rooms having direct access to the outside through a sliding door (this made the building inspector happy).  We have Fire Action plan signage on the back of the guest room door as well as in the dining room.   Please note that these signs should now be BLUE with WHITE writing – this is to align the style of the signs with other “important information” signs internationally. Click here  to get new templates to print at home.


In buildings that have guest rooms upstairs you’ll need to think carefully how the guest may exit safely – do you have a recommended exit route, what is the Plan B.?  The more restrictions on exiting safely then the more time people will need – are there effective early warning gadgets?

In the event of a Fire

How will you find out there is a fire (while you are sleeping)?  Do you have a series of smoke alarms? Perhaps you could consider linked alarms – technology has progressed to the point where you can have wifi connected smoke alarms  - this will alert the whole house  instead of a fire starting in an unoccupied room and getting a hold before anyone else is alerted.  Google “Wireless Smoke Alarms NZ”.

Fire and Emergency New Zealand  recommends “photoelectric” alarms instead of “Ionisation” type.  Check your type – an Ionisation alarm has a small radiation symbol on it.



Smoke from a flaming waste paper bin or cooking oil fire is different from that produced by the cooler smouldering of upholstery foam, bedding or the plastic bits of electrical equipment. However, both types of fire are deadly.  Photoelectric alarms are good at detecting both.

The New Zealand Building Code requires an approved smoke alarm to be fitted in every escape route (hallway) and within 3m of every sleeping space (bedroom) door. Fire and Emergency New Zealand goes further and recommends installing a smoke alarm in every bedroom, hallway and living area, on every level in the house.

Alarms must be installed on or near the ceiling (because smoke rises). There’s evidence an upstairs alarm in a stairwell is likely to respond before one fitted downstairs, even when the fire is downstairs.

False Alarms

Frustration from false alarms results in batteries being removed, or alarms removed entirely. However, if a real fire strikes, you’ll be at risk.

You can minimise false alarms by:

  • Carefully positioning your alarms – don’t put one within 3m of the kitchen or bathroom.
  • Avoiding putting alarms close to heat pumps or heating vents that stir up dust.
  • Using a rangehood or extractor when cooking or showering and try to keep doors closed.
  • Taking your alarms down occasionally and vacuuming them to remove dust and dead bugs.

Safe exits

Consider the route from the house to the meeting point.  If a fire has caused the power to fail will there be enough light to move along the path safely?  Have you supplied torches in bedrooms (pop a reminder in you diary to check smoke alarms and torch batteries at daylight saving time)?

Meeting point

Our meeting point is at the guest bedroom end of the house, we have situated it in a position where guests would be safe in the event that the fire was a Nor’ west driven wild fire as the carpark is likely to be filled with smoke and embers.  Consider where your safest place is located.  A house fire radiates a lot of heat – it will need to be some distance from the house if possible

A standard meeting point sign should be erected – it looks like this  and is available at hardware stores, etc.  You might want to consider having a shelter at this point in case it is raining or stormy.  A container with umbrellas or compact windbreakers might be welcome when you are standing in the dark in your PJs.


It is a requirement that building owners who sleep six or more guests complete a 6 monthly refresher either by having a trial evacuation or by having a meeting with relevant staff (you choose).  Once this is completed then you will file a report to Fire and Emergency NZ.


Honestly – this takes 5 mins once you are setup.

Before you can begin the 6 monthly reporting to Fire and Emergency New Zealand, you need to submit an evacuation scheme for approval.  This is a simple outline of how the alarm will be raised, and how people will exit the building safely to where. 



The Fire and Emergency website states that a property with 6 or more people needs to have an approved Evacuation Scheme, however it is considered to be best practice when you host any number of guests.

Once the evacuation scheme is approved then we are required to run refreshers at least each 6 months.  An actual fire event or false alarm requiring evacuation is considered a refresher but must be reported within 10 days to count. 

Once the trial or training refresher has been completed – this is reported on the Fire and Emergency NZ web site.  Reminders will pop up about 10 days before to prompt you to complete and report your refreshers. 


Creating and submitting an Evacuation Scheme

1.     Log into Fire and Emergency NZ online services webpage here – use a RealMe Password (create one here if you haven’t got one already.

2.     Click the apply for a new evacuations scheme:

You’ll need scanned copies of your signs and notices and of your proposed evacuation plan – a description of your steps to educate guest, alert guest, evacuate guest and where your assembly point is.

3.     Once submitted then you’ll be contacted within 20 days with any feedback.

4.     Once you have an approved Evacuation scheme then you will begin the 6mthly reporting

  • You’ll be reminded 10 days before due date
  • You’ll complete either your trial evacuation or refresher meeting
  • You’ll log in again and report date / time and other details


Fire is a horrible thing and people die from it.  Living with the knowledge that there was no plan would be as well.

Robert Day

Ribbonwood Country House, Cheviot

November 2021

+ Text Size -

Skip to TOP

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the server!