As Fire Marshal of Ontario, I deal with the impact and tragedy of fire on a daily basis. The fact is, approximately 70 percent of fire deaths occur in homes that are not protected by working smoke alarms. It is particularly tragic when fire strikes our most vulnerable groups–children and older adults.
The Ontario Fire Code now requires that all homes in Ontario have working smoke alarms. Failure to comply is a provincial offence and subject to a set fine of $200. This new regulation is intended to emphasize to the public just how vitally important it is to have these lifesaving devices in all homes.
Smoke alarms are also crucial to the safety of our firefighters. In a number of incidents where people died in fires, there was no evidence of working smoke alarms in the homes. As a result, the fires may not have been detected quickly enough and the occupants were trapped by the blaze. Unfortunately, in some of these tragic instances the valiant rescue efforts also resulted in the firefighters being injured–sometimes seriously. These situations may have had different outcomes had working smoke alarms been in place.
First priority must be given to preventing fires from happening in the first place. In the event that fire does occur, a working smoke alarm on every level of your home will alert you and your family and can provide you with an opportunity to escape. Working smoke alarms double your chances of surviving a fire. If you do not have smoke alarms in your home, install them now. If you have smoke alarms, test them regularly to make sure they work. Developing and practising a home escape plan will help to ensure that everyone knows what to do when the alarm sounds.
Remember, fire can strike quickly and when you least expect it. You may only have a few minutes to escape. It is your responsibility to make sure you have working smoke alarms in your home–and it’s the law. A small investment in fire safety can make a big difference to you, your family and our firefighters.
Bernard A. Moyle
Fire Marshal of Ontario