Smoke alarms theme of fire safety week this year

Duane Hicks

While encouraging fire safety always is part of their mandate, the Fort Frances Fire/Rescue Service will be doing a little more to get its message out to local residents during Fire Prevention Week (Oct. 3-9).
Fire safety specialist Wayne Riches said firefighters will be visiting elementary schools all next week to meet with students and spread their message of fire prevention (see the schedule elsewhere in this edition of the Times).
Then to cap off the week, the fire department will be at Canadian Tire next Saturday (Oct. 9) from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. to offer information on fire safety, as well as answer any questions.
There will be displays, booths, trucks, plenty of giveaways, and a raffle for a kid’s bike.
Canadian Tire once again is a sponsor of Fire Prevention Week activities here and across Canada all next week.
The theme for Fire Prevention Week this year is “Smoke alarms: A sound you can live with,” and Fort Frances Fire Chief Gerry Armstrong said there have been local incidents proving that smoke alarms save lives.
“We’ve had probably three significant residential fires within this calendar year where smoke alarms were present and operated,” he recalled.
“We also had a residential fire about one year ago where we had a fatality, and there was no evidence of [a] working smoke alarm in that particular building.”
In addition to improving safety, Chief Armstrong said it is the law in Ontario that residences have working smoke alarms.
“We will enforce that law,” he stressed. “It’s not that we’re out looking for offenders, but certainly if we come across a situation or scenario where there’s no working smoke alarm present, we will enforce it.”
The Ontario Fire Code states:
•all homes must have working smoke alarms on every storey and outside all sleeping areas (if you don’t, the fire department has the power to issue a ticket for $235 or lay charges that could result in a fine of up to $50,000 and/or up to a year in jail);
•landlords are responsible for providing and maintaining smoke alarms in their rental properties (if they don’t, they could be fined up to $100,000 and/or up to a year in jail);
•tenants are responsible that the smoke alarms in their rental property work (if the smoke alarm doesn’t work, they must inform their landlord to correct that); and
•tenants must not tamper with the smoke alarms and make them inoperable (they can be fined for tampering with or disabling a smoke alarm–and that includes removing the battery).
The most common reason for removing batteries is because the alarm operates when you don’t want it to, such as when cooking dinner.
There are ways to address this that don’t put your life in danger, such as installing a smoke alarm with a “hush” feature that allows you to temporarily silence it at the push of a button, moving the alarm, or installing a photoelectric model.
Smoke alarm batteries should be replaced every year or when the smoke alarm starts to chirp, which is a signal that the battery is nearing the end of its life.
Smoke alarms should be tested every month, following the manufacturer’s instructions (be sure to test them if you have been away from the house for more than a few days because the batteries could have expired in your absence).
As well, all smoke alarms, whether battery-operated or electrically-wired, should be replaced with new ones if they are more than 10 years old.