Test smoke alarms

Preventive measures for fire safety in our homes paramount

Fire Prevention Week (Oct. 9-15) is underway and fire departments across the country are providing an important message about protecting our families from injuries or death caused by house fires.

This year’s Fire Prevention Week theme is “Don’t Wait, Check the Date.”

The theme is a reminder to check the manufacture date usually on the back of our smoke alarm, and if it’s older than 10 years, we should replace it.

The common smoke alarm can be the difference between life and death in a house fire.

The importance of working smoke alarms has been documented since the BC Smoke Alarm report, entitled Smoke Alarms Work, But not Forever: Revised, was released in 2012.

Working smoke alarms should be in every bedroom and on every storey of a home because nearly 50 per cent of residential fires happen between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. – when the residents are asleep.

In British Columbia, the primary source of residential fires is stove top burners, but other top ignition sources include electrical, fireplaces, chimneys and cigarettes.

On average, one B.C. resident is injured by fire every 44 hours, and Fire Chiefs’ Association of British Columbia research suggests that fatality rates increase by 74 per cent when a working smoke alarm is not present.

The good news is that since the Smoke Alarm report in 2012, total fatalities have dropped by nine a year between 2012 and 2014 as a result of present and working smoke alarms.

So, working smoke alarms are obviously important tools for saving lives.

The key here is to make sure all of our smoke alarms are actually working, so we should test them every month.

Making sure our smoke alarms are working is as easy as pushing the little test button on the smoke alarm once a month, and changing the batteries if it fails the test.

The life-expectancy of a smoke alarm is around 10 years, so if we have one that is around that age, we should insert new batteries and test them.

If they don’t work, we should replace the smoke alarm.

However, there are other safety issues we should consider during Fire Prevention Week.

Firefighters want to increase public awareness of fire safety and this week provides an opportunity to review evacuation plans and practice fire drills with our families.

While we are testing the batteries in smoke alarms, we should also test our carbon monoxide detectors, and ensure fire extinguishers are serviced and functioning.

These preventive measures will save lives, and increase the safety of our families.

During the week, we should take the time to thank our local volunteer firefighters who train hard all year to battle blazes and save lives in our communities.