Tips for fire safety inside and out
October marks Fire Prevention Month in BC, so what better time to fortify your home against potential blazes? Following are some essential tips to keep your home safe and sound.
Fire Safety Inside the Home
Cooking with care
While cooking is an art, it’s also the leading cause of home fires. Vigilance is key, particularly when frying. Familiarize yourself with using a fire extinguisher; often local fire departments will give demos upon request. In case of a small cooking fire, don’t panic but do act quickly. For stovetop fires, slide a lid over the pan and turn off the burner, keeping it covered until it cools. In the case of an oven fire, switch off the heat and securely shut the door. If in doubt, evacuate immediately, closing the door behind you to contain the fire. If necessary, dial 911 from outside the home.
Other areas of focus within the home
- Heating sources: Exercise caution around heating equipment, maintaining a 1-metre safety zone around space heaters, woodstoves and fireplaces.
- Electrical safety: Directly plug appliances into outlets, reserving extension cords for temporary use. Regularly inspect cords for signs of wear and entrust electrical work to certified professionals.
- Child safety: Educate young children early on about the dangers of handling matches or lighters and keep them out of their reach and sight.
- Candle safety: Exercise extreme caution when using candles, especially around children and pets. Consider safer alternatives like battery-powered lights and flashlights.
Smoke alarms are crucial to protecting your family, potentially halving the risk of fatalities in a home fire. Install them strategically throughout your home; ensure everyone knows their sound and the necessary response. Regular testing and awareness of maintenance schedules are critical. If an alarm indicates a low battery with a chirp, address it immediately. Never disable a smoke alarm, even temporarily. This small step can have monumental consequences.
In the face of an emergency, a well-prepared escape plan can make all the difference. Follow these steps to create an efficient evacuation strategy for your household.
- Determine two exit paths from each room, typically a doorway and an alternate like a window or second doorway.
- Keep your escape routes free of clutter, furniture or other obstructions that impede exits.
- Choose a secure outdoor location at which to gather after evacuating.
- Consider the needs of all household members and assign someone to assist if necessary. Ensure all escape routes are accessible. Second-floor rooms should have escape ladders available.
- Conduct fire drills with your entire household at least twice a year to familiarize everyone with the plan and ensure a swift execution.
In an emergency like a fire, time is of the essence. Act promptly and prioritize safety. Leave your belongings behind, exit quickly and don’t re-enter. If smoke or fire blocks your path, seek an alternate route and, if necessary, get low to the ground to avoid smoke inhalation.
Fire Safety in Your Yard
Of course, fire safety doesn’t stop at the back door; it's equally crucial to extend your precautions to the yard. Here are key steps to maintain fire safety in the outdoor spaces around your home.
Like with the kitchen, cooking or grilling outside requires diligence. Begin by placing the grill away from flammable surfaces like siding and decking, maintaining a safe distance from children and pets. Stay watchful during the cooking process, and keep the grill clean to prevent potential flare-ups.
Portable or permanent fire pits provide enjoyment on those cooler evenings, but they also carry some risk. Ensure safety by positioning the fire pit at least three feet away from your house and anything that could catch fire. If using a wood-burning fire, employ a metal screen to prevent any sparks from drifting out. Before leaving the backyard, extinguish or turn off fires to eliminate any potential danger. Again, store matches and lighters out of sight and reach of children.
Other property fire safety measures include storing flammable liquids, like gasoline or paint thinners, in approved containers located a safe distance from occupied buildings. Position propane tanks a safe distance from structures, allowing for swift valve shut-off during emergencies. Keep the area surrounding the tanks clear of flammable vegetation to further reduce hazards.
In the event of a fire, having multiple entrance and exit routes can be a lifesaver. Also, adequate access for emergency services is crucial. All roads and driveways should be at least five meters in width to ensure them unimpeded passage.
Finally, simple yet effective measures like connecting a garden hose to an outside water outlet and properly disposing of stove or fireplace ashes in a fire-safe container contribute significantly to overall fire-safety preparedness.
Regular yard maintenance for fire prevention
Keeping on top of simple upkeep can go a long way toward ensuring a fire-safe environment. Regular tasks should include the following:
- Frequently clean roof surfaces and gutters to eliminate flammable debris accumulation.
- Install screens made of nonflammable material over the flue openings of chimneys or stovepipes, ensuring mesh openings do not exceed 1 cm for proper coverage.
- Prune or remove tree branches within 3 meters of a flue opening to prevent potential fires from climbing into the canopy.
- Trim tree branches from ground level up to a height of 3 to 4.5 meters.
- Clear away potential fuel sources. Remove any leaves and other flammable debris.
- Store combustible items like firewood, picnic tables and boats a safe distance from buildings.
- In terms of landscaping, space fire-resistant shrubs at least 4.5 meters apart to prevent the rapid spread of flames. Avoid using bark mulch or other flammable materials right around the home.
For decks and patios within three metres of your home, use nonflammable materials to minimize fire risk. Additionally, create an ember-resistant zone around and beneath these structures to prevent embers from accumulating in vulnerable areas. Likewise, ensure fences are separated from the house or upgrade the last few metres of fence to incombustible material.
For information on reducing the potential impacts of wildfire on your home and property, have a look at the BC Wildfire Service’s homeowners manual by clicking here.
Ensure street signs and address numbers are highly visible to aid firefighters and emergency responders in quickly locating your property. This small step can make a significant difference in any emergency situations.
Safety is no accident. By implementing these guidelines, you can set up a solid fire safety plan for your property. An established strategy will not only minimize potential hazards but also prioritize the safety of your household, creating a safe haven for you and your loved ones.