Dufferin Mutual Insurance Company

Fire Prevention - Use of Smoke Detectors

Though smoke detectors can be annoying when they sound off without warning – tripped perhaps by fumes emanating from the kitchen when dinner is being prepared – they serve a key function: informing residents that they may be at risk for a fire.

Yet despite these alarms being proven to substantially reduce the risk of injury or death when a fire breaks out, the disabling of these detectors may be a contributor to the rate at which people die from residential fires – eight per week, according to some estimates. 

This past week in Canada has been Fire Prevention Week. Recognized by fire departments in all 10 provinces as well as local governments, the theme of this year's campaign is "Hear the Beep Where You Sleep," alluding to the importance of not only smoke detectors being installed in every home, but that there be enough so that everyone hears them should they sound off when smoke or flame is recognized.

Yasir Naqvi, Ontario's minister of community safety and correctional services, noted that Fire Prevention Week – which runs from Oct. 4-10 – is the perfect opportunity for families to implement the appropriate steps that ensure everyone is protected from harm when a fire is present. And that starts with fire alarm maintenance.

"We know the importance of working smoke alarms in saving lives and I want to commend fire services across the province for helping spread the incredibly important message of making sure Ontarians have a smoke alarm outside every bedroom," Naqvi said. "It could save their life, or the lives of their loved ones."

Half of all fire deaths occur between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m.
In Ontario, homeowners are required by law to have at least one smoke alarm on each floor of their house. However, because many people have large living spaces, it isn't always easy to hear the beeping noise that detectors make when smoke or fire is present. In fact, according to the National Fire Protection Association, nearly 50 percent of fire deaths in the home occur between the hours of 11 p.m. and 7 a.m., typically when people are asleep.

To enhance homeowners' ability to hear smoke detectors when they sound, fire officials are encouraging Canadians to install a smoke detector outside each bedroom in the house.

The Insurance Bureau of Canada has also emphasized the importance of fire prevention, reminding homeowners that during the cold months, home fires become more prevalent.

"Data shows that, on average, home fires account for 30 percent of all fires and 73 percent of all fire-related deaths in Canada," said Bill Adams, vice president of IBC.

Before the week is out, fire officials recommend taking some of the following measures to ensure the fall and winter aren't marred by property damage or something worse:

Test smoke alarms regularly
Every smoke alarm has a "test" button, usually red in color. Aim to press this button once per month so that you can hear its volume. You may want to have someone else stand in a distant part of the house to see if they can hear it when the button is pushed.

Change the batteries
Smoke alarms don't require a lot of energy to work effectively, but battery power can drain over time. See to it that you replace the battery once a year, ideally when the time comes to change the clocks for Daylight Savings Time or when returning to Standard Time.

Replace detector every 10 years
Smoke alarms are more resilient, but they're not immune to the effects of time. Once every 10 years, replace the smoke detectors in your house with new ones.

Clean chimney flue once a year
Ensuring that the chimney is free and clear of any blockages – and that there isn't too much creosote lining the walls, which is flammable – is a dirty job. Consider hiring a professional to clean the chimney flue once a year so that chimney fire potential is curbed.

Develop emergency plan
If you had to escape your house because of a fire, would you and your family know how best to get out? All too often, many people don't, causing panic when there's an emergency. Put together a plan that outlines where everyone should go if there's ever a fire. Then, do a trial run to see how quickly everyone can leave the house without incident, gathering in a predetermined area.

Both the Government of Ontario and IBC have additional information to stay safe.

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