Smoke alarms, safe exits themes of Fire Prevention Week
Fire officials and the provincial government are encouraging British Columbians to mark national Fire Prevention Week (Oct. 7-13) by ensuring that they have working smoke alarms and that they have identified two ways to escape their homes in the event of a fire.
Each year, Fire Prevention Week highlights a key aspect of fire education. This year’s theme, Have Two Ways Out, focuses on preparing and knowing how to safely evacuate from homes.
In addition to creating a fire evacuation plan, every household in B.C. should have working smoke alarms — particularly in sleeping areas — and an extinguisher. Families are encouraged to check smoke alarm batteries monthly and mark their calendars to ensure they clean the devices twice a year.
In March, Justice Minister and Attorney General Shirley Bond and the president of the Fire Chiefs’ Association of BC, Surrey fire chief Len Garis, launched a smoke alarm campaign intended to ensure that every B.C. home has a working smoke alarm. More than 40 communities have since offered their residents assistance with installing and testing smoke alarms.
During this week, fire service personnel will focus on empowering their communities to prevent home fires and protect families through appropriate planning, tools and education. Fire safety information, including booklets with fun family resources and a map to create a fire evacuation plan, are available online and through participating fire departments.
“Fires start unexpectedly and many spread quickly, so it’s essential to have a working smoke alarm to alert you. And because smoke can create confusion, you need to plan in advance, so you make every second count in getting everyone out of your home safely,” said Bond.
“Fire Prevention Week is a good time to lay this simple foundation to better protect your family in the event of a fire. So make a night of it. Sit down with your family, map out primary and secondary evacuation routes, and then pick a muster station where everyone will meet once they’ve safely exited. In the event of a fire in your home, you will be very glad you took the time to plan ahead.”
“The theme Have Two Ways Out is an idea that should be in our minds at all times in the event of a fire, just as we must be mindful that working smoke alarms can save lives, particularly for B.C.’s most vulnerable families,”said Garis.
“How do we know this? Research in B.C. indicates there were 170 deaths in residential fires over the last five years, and 79 per cent of these occurred in homes that did not have a functioning smoke alarm. The majority of these people were over 65, very young, mentally or physically ill, economically disadvantaged or living in rural communities.
“Making sure you have planned two ways out of your home and that your smoke alarm is working will mean you and your family are better prepared to survive a fire.”
In 2011, residential fires accounted for nearly 83 per cent of fire-related injuries in B.C.
In 2010, there were 2,120 residential fires reported in B.C., resulting in 33 fatalities. In 2011, there were 2,000 residential fires reported, resulting in 21 fatalities.
Established in Canada in 1919, Fire Prevention Week is an annual event centred around Oct. 8, the anniversary of one of the most significant fires in North America, the 1871 Chicago Fire.
The main objective of Fire Prevention Week is to raise awareness concerning fire safety and to keep the public informed.
For more information on fire safety tips, activity booklets and family and school resources, visit:
Information about the smoke alarm campaign is at: www.fcabc.ca.