The Whanganui Fire Service may have just saved a life or two by failing 92 electric blankets during a public testing day.

Swapping fire hoses for scissors the service disabled 92 of the 564 blankets tested last week by snipping the electrical cables.

"All in all it was a great success, another 92 dodgy blankets out of our community, and most people happy with being told the blanket had failed," fire risk management officer Andrew Cotter said.

Whanganui lost a life last year due to a faulty blanket. Jennifer Wilks, 79, died from the injuries she suffered when fire broke out in the bedroom of her Gonville home on April 22.


Nationally faulty electric blankets kills dozens of people each year, the Fire Service says.

"Worn and old electric blankets can cause an electric shock, fire and possibly even death.
At the first sign of wear have your electric blanket checked by a qualified electrician," the service warns.

Faulty electric blanket that caused fire.
Faulty electric blanket that caused fire.

Mr Cotter said the blanket testing was popular with people turning up before the advertised start time.

"We were testing through to nearly 5.30pm and a number of people came in to the station again the next day trying to drop off more blankets for testing - we have been referring them to Laser Electrical.

"Looking at the totals we tested 564 electric blankets, and failed 92 of them. This is a 16 per cent failure rate which isn't too bad. Last year we did just shy of 400, and had 76 fail (19 per cent failure). I was hoping for 500 and we well and truly beat that."

The blankets too dangerous to keep people snugly may end as cosy bedding for animals.

Rather than send them to landfill the Fire Service offered them to the SPCA but they had enough bedding. Now the Fire Service is trying the pounds in the region and vet practices.

"We want them to go to a good cause and hopefully still be of use," Mr Cotter said.

Jeff Potaka, taking his two electric blankets in for checking by the Fire Service, Laser Electrical and volunteers.
Jeff Potaka, taking his two electric blankets in for checking by the Fire Service, Laser Electrical and volunteers.

Safety tips:


+ Electric blankets should be replaced every five years with newer heat protected
models, which are safer.
+ Don't place heavy objects on the bed while the blanket is on.
+ Make sure the blanket is always flat on the bed and that controls or
cords are not twisted or caught between the mattress and the base of the
bed. Twisted cords are a common cause of electric blanket fires.
+ Roll your blanket when you store it for the summer. Don't fold it.