Fire prevention for homeowners and renters
Did you know that Fire Prevention Week occurs every October?
Each year in the second week of that month, fire departments across Canada and the US get the word out in an effort to bring awareness to fire prevention and safety. They know that knowledge and understanding are key to keeping families safe.
Of course, we all need to do our part, too. So here is a list of some basic things each of us can do to ensure we prevent fires from impacting our lives and our loved ones.
- Have a plan. Home fires can spread quickly and engulf a small home in minutes. Having an escape plan is vital. Ensure each room has an escape option, particularly bedrooms. Make sure you have a meeting place and that every member of the family knows how to get out and where to assemble. Then practice your plan every month or two.
- Install and check smoke alarms. This is an easy and efficient way to keep your family safe. Put alarms on every floor, in hallways and every room. Test the alarms each month. If possible, use interconnected smoke alarms because if one sounds, they all sound.
- Get a fire extinguisher and know how to use it. There are many different types of extinguishers. It should be light enough that all family members can use it and good for different fire types, including electrical and grease fires. You should have extinguishers for the kitchen and the garage, at least. To use, remember the word “PASS”: Pull the pin; Aim low; Squeeze the lever slowly; Sweep from side to side.
- Know how to put out a grease fire. Kitchens are the site of many home fires. If a grease fire starts, never douse it with water or other liquid, as this can create steam explosions and cause the fire to spread. If the fire is contained to a pan, throw baking soda or salt on it from above, not the side. You can also cover the pan with a metal lid or a baking sheet. If neither work, get out of the home and call 9-1-1.
- Use caution with candles. Never leave a candle unattended. They should be kept at least 25 centimetres from anything that could catch on fire, such as curtains, blankets or furniture. Use sturdy holders that won’t tip easily.
- Practice electrical safety. Ensure any electrical work is done by a licensed electrician. Don’t plug major appliances, e.g., refrigerators, stoves, washers and dryers, into an extension cord. Don’t put electrical cords under doorways or carpets. Any area where electricity could come in contact with water, such as the laundry room or garage, should have fire safety GFCI outlets.
- Use fireplaces and woodstoves safely. Chimneys should be cleaned at least once a year to remove soot and debris that could become a fire hazard. Keep any flammable materials, such as blankets and rugs away from the fireplace. And never leave kids alone near a working fireplace or woodstove.
- Use space heaters safely. As with stoves and fireplaces, ensure there aren’t flammable items nearby and that kids and animals aren’t unattended near the heaters. Also, check the cord for cracks or frays.
- Close your door. Closed doors can slow the spread of fire, heat and smoke.
- And if there is a fire in your home? Leave your things and get out. Yell “Fire!” several times and call 9-1-1. If there is smoke, stay low. Check doors and door handles for heat, and if there is heat, look for an alternate exit. If you are stuck in the room keep the door closed and put a wet towel at the bottom edge. Open a window and try to signal for help.
If you have questions about fire alarms, smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors or fire extinguishers, I encourage you to visit your local fire department.