Personal safety and security in your home and neighbourhood are important for people of all ages. Making sure that your home is safe for you, that you are connected to your neighbours, and that you have a plan for emergencies are key aspects of ensuring your safety in the future.
Staying safe in your home includes making sure there are no hazards and that your house can be secured. Reducing hazards around your home to improve your safety may include:
- Having adequate lighting
- Limiting the use of rugs and mats, especially if they have frayed or rolling edges and if they slide when you walk on them
- Installing handrails in bathrooms and hallways if you have poor mobility
- Having a telephone within reach of your chair or bed
- Making a list of important phone numbers to keep next to your phone
- Ensuring electrical cords do not cross walkways
For more information on reducing the hazards in your home, read our Falls Prevention page
Home safety can also include securing your house from unwanted visitors. Some simple things you can do to improve your home security include:
- Making sure to lock all exterior doors and shut all windows before leaving home
- Have external lighting such as motion sensor flood lights outside your house
- Leave on a light inside the house if you go out at night
- Do not hide a spare key in a predictable place
- Consider fencing your property
- Get to know your neighbours
- Consider installing a security alarm
- Do not answer the door for people you do not know
If you have someone visiting your property that you have not met before, such as contractors who will be working on your house, ask them for identification before letting them inside.
Creating plans for future emergencies is the best way to prepare and is especially important if you have poor mobility or health issues. You can do little things to make your home safer in case of an emergency such as a fire, medical emergency, or natural disaster.
There are many things you can do to improve fire safety within your home. Particularly when you are sleeping at night, you cannot rely on your sense of smell to detect and be woken up by the smell of smoke. It is recommended that you have smoke alarms throughout your house which will alert you to any smoke in the room. They can be installed in all rooms except for the kitchen, bathroom, laundry, or garage. You can install heat alarms in these areas instead. Smoke alarms and heat alarms can be purchased from most supermarkets or hardware stores. You should check the expiration date on your smoke alarm and replace the alarm or the batteries when necessary.
Other important fire equipment to use in your home include fire extinguishers and fire blankets. Fire extinguishers will allow you to put out small fires in your house before they escalate. They should be mounted on the wall in kitchens, garages, and vehicles. It is important to read the instructions of your fire extinguisher before you need to use it so you know what types of fire it can put out.
Fire blankets can be used to smother small fires such as cooking fires, or can be wrapped around a person if their clothing is on fire. These blankets are made of fire-resistant materials to cut off oxygen to the fire. They can be purchased from hardware stores and should be kept in your kitchen.
Creating an escape plan and sharing it with everyone in your home will help you to get out in the event of a fire. You will only have a few minutes to leave if you hear your smoke alarm or notice a fire, so it is important to know how to get out and where to meet the others from your household outside. Make sure you find the best way to get out of your house and an alternative exit in case the first exit is blocked.
If you are an older person, you may qualify for a free home fire safety check. You can call 0800 NZ FIRE (0800 693 473) to organise a safety inspection of your home. More information on fire safety at home can be found at Fire and Emergency.
In the event of an emergency such as an earthquake or tsunami, you need to be prepared for at least three days stuck at home, with no power, no internet, and no water. Emergency services will be busy helping the people who need them most in the event of an emergency, so you will need to prepare for yourself. You should create an emergency kit with food, medications, water, pet food, alternative cooking and heat sources, and alternative communication such as a radio. You should also have a grab bag for each person in your house that has warm clothing, water, snacks, medications, a first aid kit, torch, radio, batteries, photo ID, and copies of important documents.
After you make your emergency plan and share it with the people in your house, you may wish to share it with your neighbours. In an emergency, neighbours and friends are often the first people to be able to offer assistance.
You can find information on what you need to do to prepare for an emergency at the Get Ready website.
Medical alarms and IDs
If you have a medical condition, you may choose to wear a medical alarm or medical ID. A medical ID such as MedicAlert, comes in the form of a necklace or bracelet with a pendant engraved with your membership ID, the MedicAlert hotline number, and your most important medical information. MedicAlert is a membership-based service that holds your relevant medical information in case of an emergency. If the MedicAlert hotline are contacted with your MedicAlert ID, they can inform emergency responders of your health conditions, current medications, and emergency contacts. You may qualify for assistance paying the membership fee for a medical alert bracelet, and you can find more information about this at Work and Income
A personal medical alarm is an emergency button that you can wear in your home as a bracelet or necklace. A base unit is connected to your phone line, and in a medical emergency you can press the button on your bracelet or necklace to contact emergency services. The emergency services will attempt to call your home phone and talk to you to understand what the emergency is. If they cannot get a phone response, an ambulance will be dispatched to your home straight away. Work and Income may cover the cost of your medical alarm if you qualify for assistance, and more information can be found here
In an emergency, call 111 immediately for police, fire, and ambulance services. In a non-emergency, you can contact the police on the 105 number. You can find out more information about when to contact non-emergency services on the 105 website.
Getting to know your neighbours is a good way to find local support and protect your community. Neighbourhood Support organisations are based in communities and are run by the people in each community. They can organise local meetings, keep neighbours connected online and by email, organise barbecues and neighbourhood events, and coordinate local projects. You can find out more about Neighbourhood Support and join your local community on their website.
Neighbourly is a community website that lets you connect to people near you. People can post about local events, crimes in the area, lost pets, plan for neighbourhood events, and communicate with neighbours about anything in their area. You can join Neighbourly on their website.
Community Patrols work alongside the Police to keep local communities safe by patrolling and aiming to prevent crime throughout your neighbourhood. Each Community Patrol is run by the community and tailored to cater to the local needs. You can find more information on Community Patrols here.
The Shielded website
The Women’s Refuge created a website tool for victims of domestic violence that allows users to access a safe portal that cannot be traced through browser history. The portal lets victims contact the Refuge, make a plan to get out of a dangerous situation safely, stay safe online, and answer questions about what comes next. The Shielded site can be found through other websites so that it can be accessed discretely. Some websites include TradeMe, Z, The Warehouse, ASB, Auckland Transport, IRD, and NZ Post. Look for a grey and white computer screen symbol at the bottom of the website page to access the Shielded website, which will not appear in your search history on your device. You can find the Shielded site beneath the websites of interest on this page.
Websites of interest