Housing New Zealand and Fire and Emergency New Zealand have teamed up to help keep tenants safe.
When a resident died in a house fire, Dunedin Senior Tenancy Manager Michael knew something needed to change.
He wanted to do more to help the people he works with every day, those living in the more than 2300 Housing New Zealand homes within the region he works, so he made a plan.
In an effort to make something positive come from tragedy, Michael went to Fire and Emergency New Zealand with a simple idea that had the potential to make a huge impact.
As a result, when he and his team go about their regular property inspections they are joined once a month by local firefighters, who help spread the message of safety against fires in the home.
“If what we’re doing saves one life then it’s all worth it,” Michael said.
“I think our tenants are more receptive hearing from Fire and Emergency than someone like their Tenancy Manager. It’s a different voice, a professional saying ‘hey, have you thought about this?’”
This week, he and Tenancy Manager Maria were joined by Qualified Firefighters Mike Taylor and Deb Williams.
Hailing from the St Kilda and Dunedin City crews, Mike and Deb were there to identify risks and help tenants ensure they were doing everything they could to keep themselves safe.
“We get called to fires at this time of year that are specific to winter – it might be ash cans being emptied before they’ve had a chance to go cold or chimneys that haven’t been swept,” Mike said.
“There are a few ways that fires can be easily avoided such as keeping ashes in a metal bucket, not drying clothes too close to a heater and ensuring you don’t get distracted while cooking or drying out firewood on top of a wood burner.”
During their visits, Mike and Deb made sure tenants knew about things like keeping stove-tops clear while you’re cooking, keeping flammable materials at least one metre from the heater and the importance of making an escape plan so they can get out safely should a fire occur.
Housing New Zealand is the country's largest landlord with more than 64,000 homes. While house fires are no more common than those experienced by the rest of the population, the large number of HNZ homes means house fires are dealt with on a regular basis.
The partnership Michael formed with Fire and Emergency was one of many ways both organisations set about helping prevent potential tragedy. Tenancy Managers in Timaru are also on board, recently signing a new partnership agreement with local firefighters to continue the fire safety home checks in their region.
The Fire and Emergency team wanted to ensure people did not become complacent – the speed of a fire can be scary so it’s important to take precautions.
Not only did they provide tips, but Fire and Emergency staff also noticed things Housing New Zealand could make better for its tenants.
“There might only be one three-point plug in a bedroom, for example, so people have multi-boxes plugged into them. Fire and Emergency will tell us that’s a fire risk and we can get more three-point plugs installed,” Tenancy Manager Michael said.
Maria said tenants were always receptive to the Fire and Emergency visitors.
“I’ve never had a negative response. Never. They tend to be smiling and a lot of them find the information really valuable,” she said.