A fire safety programme that is the result of a co-ordinated approach by two volunteer groups aims to have every home in Taradale equipped with a smoke alarm in five years.

"Every home will have an alarm - that is the target," Taradale Volunteer Fire Brigade senior station officer Paul Hughes said.

The project is a first for New Zealand.

Volunteers from Napier Community Patrol will work in teams of three under the direction of the volunteer fire service - a unique pairing of two volunteer groups - and will effectively go door-to-door and install alarms, at no cost, where they are needed.

Advertisement

"Community groups working in co-operation," Mr Hughes said.

"It is about meeting the needs of the community and this is something we can solve at a local level."

The programme, which is still in its early stages, was sparked when Mr Hughes, who had been with the Bay View Volunteer Fire Service before taking on a role with the Taradale brigade eight months ago, called to say hello and introduce himself to Taradale Constable Pete Gimblett.

He mentioned that he was keen to increase awareness of the need to have working smoke alarms but noted it came down to finding enough people to head out and do it.

Mr Gimblett, who sparked the Napier Community Patrol volunteer group with co-ordinator Sandy Ibbotson, said that after nearly 10 years they had a good number of volunteers on the books and he was confident many would be happy to take on another community task.

"We are fortunate that we have that [volunteer] manpower," Mr Gimblett said.

After Mr Gimblett and Mr Hughes put the proposal to Mrs Ibbotson and she put it to the volunteers, wheels began to turn. "When Pete suggested it to me I put the word out and they all wanted to be involved - after I said they would need to go through two days' training they still wanted to," Mrs Ibbotson said.

Mr Hughes approached Hawke's Bay Area Commander Ken Cooper and he gave it his approval, adding that when the Taradale area was fully fitted the focus was likely to shift to greater Napier and ensuring all homes across the city had smoke alarms.

Mr Hughes also began calling on Taradale businesses and community groups seeking financial support to pay for the alarms, which have 10-year working lifespans and cost about $30.

"They were keen to help," he said.

"It was case of getting the systems in place and building on it," Mr Gimblett said.

As well as fitting alarms where needed, the volunteer teams will also be trained to advise on any fire safety issues they come across.

Mr Hughes said an initial "hot map" of areas in Taradale where alarms might be needed, for socio-economic or age reasons, had been devised.

He said he had come across situations where there were up to eight people sharing a house which did not have a smoke alarm.

"That is potentially catastrophic because smoke alarms save lives - to arrive at a fire scene and see everyone outside and hearing the smoke alarm sounding - then you know it has worked."

"It's really an honour for us to be able to do this and it is all about community engagement," Mrs Ibbotson said.

"We all win," added Mr Hughes.