Fire safety education works

Each year, fire kills more than 4,500 people and injures tens of thousands of others in the United States. In Canada, more than 450 people die every year and more than 3,500 people are injured.
As a firefighter, I am concerned by the tragic fires that continue to claim the lives of people in Ontario. In 1998, 137 people lost their lives to fire.
During the 1980s, fire losses declined dramatically due in part to advanced legislation, enforcement, suppression, and smoke detectors. But over the past few years, the fire death rate appears to have levelled off.
As many as 90 percent of accidental fire deaths occur in the home where we feel safe and secure–and 70 percent of those fire deaths occur in homes without working smoke detectors!
Data gathered indicates most fire losses could have been avoided through greater use of fire prevention and public safety education programs.
Currently, many fire prevention and public safety education programs are being delivered in communities across Canada to enhance fire safety and reduce fire loss. But in many communities, programs like the school-based “Learn Not to Burn” curriculum do not exist!
Fire safety educators have indicated the first line of defence against fire is education, awareness, and promotion. As a firefighter, I can honestly say there is no honour in fighting a fire that could have been prevented!
In my 12 years of being a part-time firefighter, I have seen the result from educating people, especially school children. Fact: public fire safety education works!
In the rest of Canada, fire is a widespread tragedy. Our country has the world’s third-worst record for fire losses and the fifth-worst for loss of life. The death rate from fire which takes the population into account is the second-highest in the world!
For more than 10 years, Canada has averaged 67,326 fires a year. Dollar loss is an average of $1.2 billion (Cdn.) in direct property damage. Adding in the indirect cost, such as maintaining fire equipment and environmental clean-up after a fire, the total amounts to roughly $11 billion in losses.
We averaged 465 fire deaths a year and 3,685 injuries a year. The trend is consistent and continues to date with no improvement!
Smoke is the real killer in most of these fatal fires. Few people die from the fire itself. Smoke is quiet and deadly . . . it will cover you like a blanket.
Fire doubles in size about every 30 seconds and can engulf a home in six minutes. But smoke can engulf a home in two minutes!
When you’re asleep, your nose is asleep. Properly installed and maintained working smoke detectors on every level of the home and cottage, outside sleeping areas, and inside the bedrooms are critical for early detection of fire.
Test your smoke detectors weekly by pushing the alarm test button, and test monthly with actual smoke from a piece of smoldering cotton string, incense stick, or candle wick.
Vacuum every six months and change the batteries when you change your clocks in the spring and fall, or when needed. If your smoke detectors are 10 years old, replace them!
(Note: Many smoke detectors have the date stamped on the back).
Include a home/cottage escape plan with two ways out of each room, especially the bedrooms. If fire strikes, get out and stay out!! Have a meeting place outside and phone the fire department from a neighbour’s.
Never go back into a burning home/cottage!
Fact: If fire strikes and the blanket of smoke descends, you could be lost in your own home. The only light will be deadly–and coming your way!
“If you never need what you learn about fire safety, you have lost nothing. If you never learn what you need, you may lose everything . . . your family and your life!”

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