Smoke alarms, evacuation plans save lives

Fire chief Darrell Blades urges residents to have working smoke alarms and an evacuation plan

100 Mile House Fire-Rescue chief Darrell Blades urges residents to test their smoke alarms and “have two ways out” during Fire Prevention Week, Oct. 7-13.

If you woke up to a fire in your home, how much time do you think you would have to get to safety?

According to the nonprofit National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), one-third of households estimated they would have at least six minutes before a fire in their home would become life threatening. Unfortunately, the time available is often less.

• On average, 35 people died in structure fires in British Columbia each year between 2006 and 2011.

• Young children, older adults, people with disabilities, rental units, and households in low-income areas, rural communities and First Nations reserves are at greater risk.

• Working smoke alarms could reduce annual fire deaths by as much as 32 per cent.

• Fire damage was reduced by 19 per cent when a working smoke alarm was present.

Smoke-alarm legislation varies from province to province. Since mid-2010, the B.C. Fire Code has required all homes, and hotel and motel rooms to have a working smoke alarm (battery-operated or hard-wired).

However, this is not systematically enforced on residential properties.

Smoke alarms’ function is another challenge. Models with removable batteries can be easily disabled during cooking, and also require the occupant to be diligent about replacing batteries at regular intervals.

While this problem is addressed by hard-wired and long-life lithium battery models, their seemingly “care-free” status may result in neglected maintenance and use beyond the functioning lifespan.

A co-ordinated, sustained and multifaceted approach – consisting of education, enforcement and changes to the environment – is required to ensure every Canadian home has a working smoke alarm.

This year’s Fire Prevention Week theme is to “Have Two Ways Out,” which focuses on the importance of fire escape planning and practice.

100 Mile House Fire-Rescue recommends the following tips for planning your family’s escape

• Test your smoke alarms

• Ensure your smoke alarms are less than 10 years old.

• Make a map of your home. Mark a door and a window that can be used to get out of every room.

• Choose a meeting place outside in front of your home, where everyone can meet once they’ve escaped. Draw a picture of your outside meeting place on your escape plan.

• Write the emergency telephone number for the fire department on your escape plan.

• Have a grown-up sound the smoke alarm and practice your escape plan with everyone living in your home.

• Keep your escape plan on the refrigerator and remind grown-ups to have your family practice the plan twice a year, or whenever anyone in your home celebrates a birthday.

To find out more about Fire Prevention Week programs and other fire-prevention activities in 100 Mile House, contact 100 Mile House Fire-Rescue at 250-395-2152.

To learn more about 100 Mile House Fire-Rescue visit www.100milefire.com.

To learn about “Working Smoke Alarms Save Lives,” visit www.workingsmokealarms.ca.

To learn more about “Have Two Ways Out!” visit NFPA’s website at www.firepreventionweek.org.

100 Mile House Fire-Rescue’s motto: “We won’t rest until you install and test.”