Smoke Alarms and Fire Escape Plans

Tragic house fires take the lives of children every year. Fire officials believe that deaths can be prevented with working smoke alarms and fire escape plans.

Smoke Alarms Save Lives

Investigations into home fire deaths very often find that a smoke alarm did not sound. It may have been disconnected or not in working order. The batteries may have been dead, or someone may have taken them out. Most fatal fires start at night, says Therien. Smoke alone won't necessarily wake you up. In fact, the fumes could put you into an even deeper sleep. Often, victims never wake up. Only a working smoke alarm can save your life. The Canada Safety Council advises all Canadians to make sure their smoke alarms are working. A dead unit is worse than none at all — it can give you a false sense of security.

Smoke Alarm Basics

You need a smoke alarm on every level of your home. Single level homes and apartments should have smoke alarms near the kitchen and all sleeping areas. Test your alarm monthly by pushing the test button. Once a year, use a smouldering cotton string, cigarette or incense until the smoke makes the alarm sound. If the alarm is battery-powered and doesn't sound, replace it with a new battery and try again. If it's electrically connected to household circuits and doesn't sound, check the fuse and try again. In either case, if the alarm still isn't working, replace the entire unit. Replace the batteries twice a year, or when you hear intermittent beeping. Don't use rechargeable batteries. Unlike regular batteries, they lose their charge without emitting any warning signal.

Smoke alarms can be electrically powered, battery powered or a combination of both. Whatever kind you have, remember they don't last forever. Err on the side of safety – replace them every five years with new ones. Make sure everyone in your home recognizes the sound of the alarm and knows what to do in case of a fire. Know two ways out of every room and have a prearranged meeting place outside. Practice your home fire escape plan regularly. Once out, stay out, and call the fire department from the nearest phone. Never go back into your home until the fire department says it is safe. Types of Smoke Alarms

A flaming fire burns combustibles quickly, spreads rapidly and generates a lot of heat but only a little smoke. Cooking fat or grease, flammable liquids, newspapers, paint, and cleaning solutions all burn quickly and create more flames than smoke. Ionization type smoke alarms typically respond first to fast flaming fires. They are best suited for rooms which contain highly combustible materials.

A smouldering fire produces a lot of smoke but little heat. Careless smoking, for example, may lead to fires which can smoulder for hours before bursting into flame. Photoelectric type smoke alarms typically respond first to slow smouldering fires and are less prone to nuisance alarms near the kitchen area. These models are best suited for living rooms, bedrooms and near kitchens. For maximum protection, install at least one ionization and one photoelectric type smoke alarm on each level of your home.

For more information on smoke alarms contact your local fire department.

Every Home Needs a Fire Escape Plan

A home fire can start much more easily than most people think. In fact, firefighters battle more than 50,000 residential fires in Canada every year. Yet a recent survey shows most Canadians may not be prepared if a fire were to strike their home. In spring 2006, Duracell and the Canada Safety Council commissioned a cross-Canada survey on fire safety. It found that 70 percent of respondents had not held a home fire drill in the past year – down eight percent from 2005. In fact, an alarming 69 percent did not have a home fire escape plan in place. Key Factors in Home Fires

Smokers’ materials are leading cause of fire-related fatalities and loss in Canada. New standards for self-extinguishing cigarettes, which came into effect in October 2005, will help reduce fires due to careless smoking. The most dangerous room for fire is the kitchen, and grease fires are very often the culprit. Over the past few years, candles have led to more and more home fires. Outside the holiday season, candle fires most often start in the bedroom. Fires caused by cooking and candles can be prevented by never, ever leaving cooking or burning candles unattended.

Most fatal fires start at night. Smoke alone won't necessarily wake you up — in fact, the fumes could put you into an even deeper sleep. That is why you need a smoke alarm on every floor, near the kitchen and outside all sleeping areas. Test each unit regularly, and replace the batteries regularly. A good way to remember is to change the batteries when you change your clocks in the spring and fall.

Plan and Practice Your Escape

In addition to properly working smoke alarms, the best defence against a fire is a well-rehearsed, escape plan. Knowing exactly what to do can save precious seconds in the event of a real emergency.

The Canada Safety Council recommends these steps to prepare for a family fire drill:

  • Draw a floor plan of your house.
  • Mark two ways out of each room.
  • Establish a meeting place outside the house.
  • Be sure each family member has the plan and knows the escape route.
  • Post your fire escape plan on the fridge or family bulletin board.
  • Hold a fire drill for your family once or twice a year. Vary the drills, to practice escaping from different fire sources.

Source: Canada Safety Council