Fatalities in fires typically occur in homes, so MBIE are introducing new rules on smoke alarms in an effort to reduce these numbers. Find out more about these new rules.
Smoke from a fire contains toxic gases including carbon monoxide (which makes you sleep deeper) and hydrogen cyanide (which is very poisonous), meaning you will not wake up to the smell of smoke in a fire. Alerting sleeping people is the primary job of a smoke alarm and since they have been introduced, fatalities in fires have reduced where alarms are correctly fitted and serviced.
The current rules on home smoke alarms are that houses need a smoke alarm within 3m of the bedroom door, and at least one smoke alarm on each level of the building to get out. This doesn’t detect a fire in the bedroom itself, and it can be difficult to hear an alarm sounding in another part of the house, especially if these are multi-level.
New rules to be introduced next year will require smoke alarms in every bedroom, and through escape paths. This might include having a heat alarm in the kitchen if this is on the path out of the building from the bedroom. All alarms will require interconnection. This can be done using wireless technology, or can be hard wired, but when one alarm activates then all of them will need to sound.
All will need to be part of a system or have 10-year battery life.
For new builds, hardwired detectors may be the option as these would not be encumbered with replacement every 10 years and issues with wireless connectivity. There are systems on the market which have a simple controller the size of a light switch and can provide commercial-grade fire detection options, less prone to false alarms. There is a New Zealand Standard for this (NZS 4514) which we use in community housing facilities effectively. If you are planning a build, this might be the option.
Retrofitting is more expensive and wireless technology will be the option for these buildings. Expect that if you raise a building consent in your house for any reason from next year, that you will be expected to comply with new smoke alarm rules, even if the work is minor. I would expect hardware stores to stock a wider range of wireless detectors, but these are typically between $50 and $120 each, and may need an additional controller to connect them together or hush the system.
These will keep people safe and reduce the number of fatalities this country has in domestic fires.