Fire safety starts with you

I’m a local firefighter, but I’m also the guy who lives down the street from you. I am a parent of two children, and perhaps I share with you the same dreams you have for your children.
I am faced with the many problems you have. I am also faced with the fire tragedies that continue to plaque our country. I have seen many fires, including fatal ones.
I would like to share with you some vital and basic fire safety education to avert the kind of tragedies I have encountered.
The scene is a week or so before Christmas. It is after 2 a.m., and somewhere in town there is a home with a family asleep. Cigarette ashes have fallen onto a couch. As the ashes continue to smoulder, the family inside the home is unaware of the danger.
Suddenly, smouldering turns to flames. Smoke fills the room, and continues throughout the rest of the home.
As time goes by, the bells at the fire station ring. My fire pager goes off . . . announcing a house is on fire. I awake to rush to the burning home.
As I arrive on scene, it seems to be a typical house fire, but something is different. The house is engulfed in flames. Smoke and fire pour from the second floor of the burning home.
The on-duty captain’s face tells it all. He instructs me to put on an air pack.
As I approach the side of the burning house, my mind focuses on loud screaming and crying, which is coming from a neighbour. “Oh my God—the kids are still up there!”
I enter the burning home with the nozzle man, and we knocked down the fire and put it out. What we come across is a disturbing scene. One parent escaped out a window. Sadly, the other parent and two children did not.
It was extremely upsetting and heart-breaking because the victims were children. So many years of potential life lost!
The vast majority of Canadians have smoke alarms. But many of these alarms are not in working order because the batteries are dead or have been removed.
Some provinces have estimated that 40 percent of smoke alarms in homes do not work!
Fact: working smoke alarms save lives! Properly-installed and maintained working smoke alarms are critical for early detection of fire. Take a few minutes each week to test your alarms by pushing the alarm test button.
However, this only tests the audible alarm, not the smoke sensors. You need to test your smoke alarms monthly using smoke from a smouldering cotton string, incense stick, or candle wick.
When returning home from a vacation, recheck the alarms–even if you’ve only been gone a week. The alarm’s low-battery warning only chirps for a short time before the battery is completely dead!
Install new batteries every six months when you change your clocks in the spring and fall, or when needed. If the low-battery warning beeps, replace the battery immediately. This action may be the smartest investment you ever make!
Dust can clog a smoke alarm. Use your vacuum cleaner to clean your alarms. Carefully vacuum the inside and outside of a battery-powered unit with a soft brush attachment.
If the alarm is electrically connected, shut off the power and vacuum the outside vents only. Make sure you test the unit when you restore the power.
You may only have seconds to escape a house fire. A fire can engulf a home or cottage in six minutes or less. But smoke—which is the real killer–can engulf your home or cottage in two minutes or less!
Developing and practising a well-rehearsed home escape plan with two ways out of each room is critical to your family’s survival. No one needs to die in a fire! Ultimately, your family’s safety is your responsibility.
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!
Fire safety . . . it starts with you!
Tyler Moffitt is a part-time fire fighter and first aid instructor. He writes fire and life safety columns as a public service.

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Fire safety starts with you!

Fire safety–and the role it plays in your life–depends on many things, including your attitude.
All of us need to learn how to protect ourselves and family members from the hazards of fire. We all need to be made aware of them and reminded to be responsible, to think, and to make time for fire safety!
Fire Prevention Week runs Oct. 8-14 this year, and I would like to share some fire safety facts and tips with you:
< *c>Fire safety facts
•Most fires occur between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.
•Smoking and cooking are two of the top causes of fire.
•Most fire-related deaths are caused by smoke, not by flames. Smoke is quiet and deadly . . . it will cover you like a blanket. Fire and smoke travel very quickly, often with tragic consequences!
A fire can engulf a home or cottage in six minutes. But smoke can engulf a home in two minutes or less!
< *c>Fire safety tips
•When you’re asleep, your nose is asleep, so smoke alarms are critical for the early detection of fire.
It is highly recommended to have properly installed and maintained working smoke alarms on every level of your home or cottage, outside the sleeping areas, and in the bedrooms!
Test your smoke alarms weekly by pushing the alarm test button. Test them monthly with actual smoke from a piece of smouldering cotton string, incense stick, or candlewick.
Vacuum every six months, and change the batteries when you change your clocks in the fall and spring (or when needed). Replace smoke alarms themselves every 10 years.
•Develop and practice a family home escape plan with two exits out of each room.
•In any building, always make note of where the exits are.
•If your clothing catches fire, don’t run! Stop, drop, and roll.
•In smoke conditions, cover your mouth and nose with a cloth, and crawl low to the nearest exit.
•Never open a door without checking it for heat or to see if smoke is leaking in around the edges.
•Make your home “kidproof” by keeping matches and lighters out of children’s hands (matches and lighters are tools, not toys).
•Never store gasoline, propane, or other flammable products in the home.
•Never call the fire department from inside a burning home–even if seems momentarily safe.
Meet at a designated spot outside and send someone to call from a neighbour’s house.
•Never re-enter a burning home. Many deaths occur because people go back.
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!
Remember, if you never need what you learn about fire safety, you have lost nothing. But if you never learn what you need, you may lose everything . . . your family and your life!

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