Fire safety

Information about fire safety, including fire permits, safety at school sleepovers and fireworks.

Level of complianceMain audienceOther

Required

  • Boards
  • Principals and Tumuaki
  • Proprietors
  • Teachers and Kaiako
  • Parents, Caregivers and Whānau

Boards, proprietors and school leaders are required to safeguard their schools from fire risks. There are also rules about fire safety to be followed such as no fireworks at school, and possible required permits. 

Fire safety

Lighting fires

Check with Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ) and your local council before lighting fires.

Since 2018, all rules, fire ban information, and how to apply for a fire permit can be found on the Fire and Emergency New Zealand website or by contacting Fire and Emergency New Zealand on 0800 658 628.

Fire and Emergency New Zealand website(external link)

You may need a permit 

There are rules that apply to different types of fires during different ‘fire seasons’. These are set out on the FENZ site. 

Fire and Emergency New Zealand - Open air fires - rules and permits(external link)

You should always refer to the site to establish if you can light a specific type of fire at all, and, if so, what are the terms and conditions including the potential need for a permit. 

Practical considerations and risk assessment

Having secured any necessary permissions, you should think about the practical details of managing a fire and risk management considerations.

The FENZ website offers advice on what needs to be considered.

Fire and Emergency New Zealand - Before you light a fire, check it’s safe(external link) 

Depending on the type of fire, there will be a range of considerations including:

  • wind strength and direction
  • ground conditions
  • ensuring the fire doesn’t contain contaminants that might damage people’s health or the environment
  • making sure the fire doesn’t release bad odours, excessive smoke or particles
  • ensuring plastic, rubber, food waste, chemicals and animal parts are not burnt in the fire.

You may also need to contact the local council on conditions for lighting fires including local fire condition or fire bans. 

Local Government New Zealand - Council maps and websites(external link)

Protecting your school and assets

Arson can have a significant impact on a school and its community. The Ministry’s Fire Policy is focused reducing the number of fires and their impacts. In addition, there are also initiatives that the school community can take to mitigate fires and the damage they cause.

Further information is available on the FENZ website, which has guidance on steps schools can take to improve fire safety and reduce the likelihood of arson on school grounds.

Fire and Emergency New Zealand - Protecting your school and assets(external link)

Fire Awareness and Intervention Programme

FENZ has developed a Fire Awareness & Intervention Programme (FAIP). This is a free consequences-based education programme designed to stop young people, aged from 5 to 17, lighting fires.

Fire and Emergency New Zealand - Fire Awareness & Intervention Programme (FAIP)(external link) 

Fire safety for school sleepovers

Students or community groups may wish to use the school hall or classroom for a sleepover. If this is agreed to, there must be a formal agreement put in place setting out arrangements for its use. 

As a board, a written agreement with the group having the sleepover is required. This agreement must include compliance with the fire safety requirements under the New Zealand Building Code and any additional Ministry requirements.

These rules apply to:

  • all sleepovers, for students as well as outside groups
  • overnight stays, even where no sleep is intended, like the 40 Hour Famine.

Use the Casual Use Agreement.

Lease agreements and application process

What you need to do to have a school sleepover 

1. Notify the local FENZ Fire Commander 

When there is to be a sleepover at your school, you must notify the local FENZ fire risk management officer to ensure that, in the event of a fire, FENZ is aware that people may be in a building and this will inform their approach in the event of a fire or emergency.

2. Comply with requirements for automatic smoke detection in the sleeping area

    There must be an automatic fire alarm system with smoke detectors (ideally type 4) wherever the sleepover is occurring at your school.

    The automatic fire alarm system must include:

    • automatic smoke detectors
    • manual call points, which allow people to push a button to set off a fire alarm
    • Ideally, the alarm system would be directly connected to FENZ, which is a Ministry requirement for all new school buildings or existing building being substantially refurbished.

    The sleeping area must be on the ground floor of a building.

    3. Comply with sprinkler requirements

    If there are more than 40 people in a "group sleeping area" (hall, classroom or other area used for sleeping), the area must be equipped with an automatic sprinkler system. In addition, it must have 2 or more exits to provide means of escape.

    If a "group sleeping area" doesn't have a sprinkler system, then the maximum number of people sleeping in the area cannot be more than 40 people. It must still have automatic smoke detection (ideally Type 4) alarm system with manual call points in the sleeping area. The area cannot include a kitchen, but may include tea making facilities.

    Even where the sleeping area is sprinklered, the maximum number of people in the sleeping area cannot be more than 160 people and the automatic smoke detection requirements would apply (e.g. Type 7 automatic smoke detection with automatic sprinkler system). 

    A “waking watch” is not a substitution for automatic smoke detection.

    4. Ensure compliance with safeguarding measures against fire

    Make sure that:

    • each person has access to a wide and unobstructed egress pathway to all exits
    • mattresses and other items are away from heaters and heating vents
    • power points aren't overloaded with phone and other devices, local lighting, heating or cooking devices
    • all emergency exits are clear and well lit
    • everyone is told where the exits are and where to meet if there's a fire
    • there are torches on hand.

    The Ministry of Education encourages schools to engage the local FENZ fire risk management officer to provide specific advice on what your school can do to make sleepovers safe.

    Fireworks at schools

    Using pyrotechnics and fireworks

    Pyrotechnics can be used in school productions when the Ministry is informed and it’s professionally supervised, but firework displays are never allowed.

    Pyrotechnics in school productions

    Sometimes pyrotechnics such as explosions, flashes and smoke can be used as special effects in school productions. You can't use fireworks sold over the counter for Guy Fawkes Day.

    You will need to download and complete the Indoor or Outdoor pyrotechnic display written agreement and notification form. This form is available from the FENZ website.

    Fire and Emergency New Zealand - Fireworks and pyrotechnic displays(external link)

    If you want to use pyrotechnics, you must contact the Ministry.

    Local Ministry offices

    We'll give permission if you:

    • supply us with a copy of the approved Fire and Emergency New Zealand Indoor/Outdoor pyrotechnic display written agreement and notification form
    • inform the company that monitors your smoke-detection devices about the production and when it will happen
    • use an approved handler from the EPA to control the pyrotechnics.

    Firework displays

    Fireworks of any kind aren't allowed on schools’ grounds. Firework displays always have a risk of fire regardless of how well they're managed. Fires are costly and cause huge disruption to the school.

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