By Penny Musco
IT’S AN UNFORTUNATE fact that stories
about tragic fires, from large ones involving
several buildings to smaller fires in homes,
appear regularly in the news. Statistics bear
out this sad and sobering truth: The place
where we feel the safest is where we’re most
likely to die in a fire.
Why is that? The simple answer is that
we tend to give fire prevention only a passing thought. We place more value on how
our house looks than on safety. But fire officials hope Fire Prevention Week, this year
October 4–10, will motivate all of us to
rethink that mentality.
While Canada has no national standard
for the number of smoke alarms in a home,
the usual recommendation is one in every
dwelling. Laws vary by province or territory,
2014.pdf to find out your province/territory’s
law), but many experts advocate adding one
outside each sleeping area and, if you keep
your bedroom door closed, another inside.
“We know early activation contributes to
safely exiting a home in the event of fire,” says
Costco member Paul Boissonneault, fire chief
and community emergency management
coordinator for Brant County, Ontario, and
also president of the Canadian Association of
Fire Chiefs. “If you create your own standards
that are safer than what legislation provides,
then you’re doing your family justice.”
Carbon monoxide detectors also are
required in many regions, with Ontario the
latest to mandate one in each residence. But
again, more is better. All devices should be
interconnected—hard-wired by an electrician
or through using wireless alarms—and have
battery backup in case of a power outage.
Smoke–carbon monoxide combination
detectors with lithium batteries offer added
convenience. The Safe at Home website
safeathome.ca) has easy-to-read, practical
advice on the purchase, installation and
maintenance of each kind.
Boissonneault is a fierce advocate of
sprinkler systems as well. “There has never
been a fatality in a residential location where
sprinklers existed,” he declares. He would
love to see them consistently offered not only
as an optional upgrade in new home construction, just as higher-quality flooring
would be, but also when people remodel an
“Granite countertops are a luxury-based
item that improves aesthetics and increases a
home’s value,” he says. “Well, is a sprinkler
system something that needs to be high-
• Review the escape plan posted on
your hotel/motel door, then count the
number of doors between your room
and the nearest exit.
• Keep your room key next to your bed
and take it if you have to leave—you may
need to return if the smoke and fire are
IN PUBLIC BUILDINGS
• Study the evacuation plan (often
posted near the elevators) at your office.
Keeping safe away from home
• Know the location of all exits in
stores, restaurants, etc.
• When an alarm sounds, leave immediately, closing doors behind you.
• Use the stairs, never the elevators.
• If there’s smoke, crawl below it.
• If you can’t escape, shut off heating/
cooling systems, stuff wet towels around
the door, let the fire department know
your location and wait by a window.
the fire is