Each year, Canada reports thousands of fires, with residential fires accounting for nearly two-thirds of structure losses in many regions. However, property damage is not the only possibility; even a small fire can quickly become fatal, especially if you are unprepared.
As Fire Prevention Week approaches, take advantage of the opportunity to brush up on some critical fire facts and tips that will assist you in developing a sound fire safety plan. Begin with these five tips to assist you in safeguarding your home, family, and yourself against harm and loss.
Properly install fire alarms. While it may appear to be a simple task, errors can occur when installing or replacing smoke detectors and fire alarms. The number of detectors, their location and position, as well as the frequency of testing, all contribute to your level of safety and protection.
Smoke alarms are classified into two types: ionization and photoelectric. Because ionization detectors respond more quickly to flaming fires and photoelectric alarms respond more quickly to smoldering fires, it’s a good idea to have both types installed in the building.
Smoke detectors should be installed on each level of your home or office; larger buildings should have multiple smoke alarms on each level. Mount the detector in the center of the room, if possible. Place the detector away from recessed ceilings and away from vents, doors, and fans. Additionally, you’ll want to ensure that it’s placed more than:
Within two feet of any corner
At a distance of two feet from any light fixture
Ten feet away from a stove
At least once a month, test smoke alarms and replace batteries at least twice a year (it can be helpful to do this whenever you change the clocks for Daylight Saving Time). Experts recommend replacing smoke alarms every ten years.
Take special care with cooking and heating equipment. Along with open flames, heating and cooking equipment is a common source of ignition in the home – and it may put you at greater risk than you realize.
While careless smoking is a leading cause of fire, other types of equipment such as portable heaters, fireplaces, and wood stoves can be just as dangerous. Combustibles become a problem when they are brought too close to a heat source or when an area is not well ventilated. To help mitigate the risk of fire, you can:
Ascertain that the installation and maintenance of any heating equipment is performed by a qualified technician.
Never burn pressure treated wood in a wood stove or fireplace.
Regularly clean chimney flues.
Keep wood and other combustible materials away from a wood stove or portable heater.
Ascertain that the heating device’s electrical components are undamaged and in good working order.
Cooking equipment can be problematic, especially if grease, dirt, and damage accumulate. Maintain regular cleaning of hood filters, vents, and grease traps, and ensure that everyone understands what to do in the event of a grease fire in the kitchen: use baking soda, salt, or a class B rated fire extinguisher to extinguish the flames – never use water.
Along with open flames, heating and cooking equipment is a common source of ignition in the home – and it may put you at greater risk than you realize.
Prepare an escape route. Even if you are familiar with the building, do not assume you can easily escape during a fire. After all, dense smoke, intense heat, and general mayhem can overwhelm your senses, trapping you and leaving you befuddled if a fire breaks out.
The National Fire Protection Association recommends that you plan two escape routes from each room and clearly map them out on paper. It’s critical to practice exiting through those escape routes together, but it’s also critical for each person to practice the route independently: in some cases, children may need to navigate on their own, and they should have practice finding their way around the house. Babysitters should be aware of your escape plan as well.
Due to the fact that smoke from a fire can significantly impair visibility, you may wish to replicate those conditions by making your way to the door or window at night, with the lights turned off. When you’re forced to rely on your senses to navigate your escape route, you can commit the sensation to memory, which can help you maintain your composure and confidence.
Understand how to properly select and use a fire extinguisher. You’re probably familiar with fire extinguishers, but have you ever learned about the various types, how to select the appropriate one for the situation, and how to use it properly?
Every home should have an ABC-rated fire extinguisher that is in good working order and conveniently located. Because there may be little time to read the instructions before confronting the flames, it’s critical that you understand how to use the extinguisher properly before an emergency occurs. Bear in mind the acronym PASS:
Remove the pin
Aim the nozzle at the fire’s origin.
Activate the trigger
Sweep the extinguisher in a clockwise direction.
Extinguishers should be used only when a fire is small and contained – a large fire requires professional assistance. When in doubt, leave the building and contact the fire department from a safer location.
Acquaint yourself with the dangers of fire. Knowledge is critical in preventing fires. The more information you have, the more prepared you will be to deal with a fire calmly and safely. Bear the following points in mind to assist you in mitigating risk and reacting appropriately:
Seconds are critical. In as little as 30 seconds, a small flame can become a major fire. Flames can quickly spread throughout a home, filling it with thick, black smoke.
The threat posed by heat is greater than the threat posed by flame. While you may believe that the real danger occurs when flames are directly adjacent to you, the temperature of the surrounding air can cause sudden and severe damage: room temperatures can reach 600 degrees Fahrenheit at eye level. That is why it is critical to remain close to the ground during a fire.
While the flames are brilliant, the smoke is dark. When a fire begins, it can illuminate a room, but soon the black smoke will obscure your vision, and you could find yourself in complete darkness in a matter of minutes. This is why it is critical to practice your escape route in the dark as part of your fire safety plan.
Toxic air is extremely lethal. While flames are undoubtedly frightening, the smoke and poisonous gases released into the air during a fire can cause drowsiness, disorientation, and shortness of breath. Indeed, asphyxiation kills more people than fires. ¹