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Fire Safety 101

Protect Your Family and Your Home

Protecting your family from fire requires you to carefully consider three things: prevention, detection, and escape. Some household fire hazards may be obvious, while others may not, so learning how to identify and eliminate them is your first course of action. Equally as important? Smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, and an escape plan that gives family members a map to safety if they’re caught in a fire.

To help prevent fire in your home, check for hazards like frayed or damaged cords, overloaded extension cords, or lighters or matches left accessible to children. Never smoke in bed. And since cooking is the number one cause of home fires, never leave the stove unattended.

You have less than three minutes to escape the average house fire, so ensuring your home is properly equipped with smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to detect a fire or the presence of carbon monoxide gas is essential.

Smoke Detectors

Smoke alarm

Fire safety officials recommend installing one smoke detector on every storey of your home outside sleeping areas. If you sleep with doors closed, install smoke detectors right in the bedrooms.

Smoke detectors are powered in two ways: by battery or by being hardwired directly into your home’s electrical system. Hardwired units work in unison - if one sounds, they all sound - and feature a battery backup should you experience a power outage. Wireless and interconnected detectors are available and work in unison, without the need to rewire older homes.

Smoke detectors should be tested monthly and new batteries should be installed at least once a year or immediately if the low battery chirp sounds. To ensure optimal function of your smoke detectors, follow the manufacturer’s instructions when installing, testing and maintaining. And remember: replace smoke detectors every 10 years whether they’re battery operated or hardwired.

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Proper placement for smoke and carbon dioxide alarms

Carbon Monoxide Alarms

Carbon monoxide alarms

Carbon monoxide is an invisible, odourless and tasteless gas that is the leading cause of accidental poisoning deaths in North America. Low-level exposure mimics symptoms of the flu without the fever. Common sources of carbon monoxide include fireplaces (wood or gas) and propane or gas water heaters, furnaces, dryers, ovens, and the exhaust from idling cars. If you have any one of these devices in your home, or an attached garage or carport, you need a CO detector.

Properly maintained and professionally inspected appliances, heating systems, and ductwork will help prevent the threat of carbon monoxide poisoning. To further protect your family against this “silent killer”, install carbon monoxide detectors on every storey of your home, especially outside sleeping areas. Look for the CSA 6.19-01 blue flame stamp when purchasing your carbon monoxide detectors to ensure they are certified to the latest technology.

As with your smoke detectors, it is paramount that your carbon monoxide detectors are installed, tested and maintained in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions. Carbon monoxide detectors must be replaced every five to seven years and in some cases every 10 years, depending on the brand.

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Combination Smoke / Carbon Monoxide Alarms

Combination smoke/carbon monoxide alarms

These combination devices warn you of both smoke and carbon monoxide. An alarm or voice alert sounds when dangerous levels are reached. The advantage to these units is that they save space (one detector instead of two) and require you to change and test batteries in just one device as well.

When your smoke detectors sound, everyone must know what to do and where to go. Creating and practicing an escape plan, that shows two escape routes for every room in your house if possible, will help reduce panic and confusion in the event of a real fire. Agreeing on a safe, outside meeting place is also essential. Emergency escape ladders and fire extinguishers can also aid in your family’s escape, and should be made easily accessible in case of fire.

Emergency Escape Ladders

Emergency escape ladders

Having an emergency escape ladder in each of your second-storey bedrooms ensures a second escape route through the window. They attach quickly and easily over window ledges of varying widths, and are strong enough to carry the weight of an adult and a child together. Your emergency escape ladders need to be readily accessible and easy to find in a dark or smoke-filled room. Keep in mind that these ladders are designed for use only once.

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Household Fire Escape Plan

Fire Extinguishers

Fire extinguisher

Fire extinguishers are designed to put out or contain small fires. You should have one fire extinguisher for every 600 sq. ft. of living space.

There are three basic classes of fire extinguishers:

  • Class A: Trash, wood, and paper
  • Class B: Flammable liquids and gases
  • Class C: Energized electrical equipment

ABC-rated (multi-purpose) extinguishers are effective at protecting against all three classes of fire, however they are not generally recommended for use on kitchen/cooking fires because the extinguishing agent fuses to the surface of burning material and as a result may further damage cooking appliances. Instead, use a BC-rated fire extinguisher to smother fire and prevent flashbacks common with cooking fires.

Another consideration when purchasing a fire extinguisher is its rating, which signifies the measure of the firefighting capability; the higher the rating, the greater its firefighting capacity.

To operate your fire extinguisher, use the PASS method:

  • P: Pull the pin
  • A: Aim the nozzle at the base of the fire
  • S: Squeeze the handle
  • S: Sweep the nozzle side-to-side

Maintain your fire extinguishers and install them within reach in an upright position. Disposable models should be replaced and reusable models should be recharged after each use.

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