Officers, chief offer safety tips ahead of fire prevention week

WELLINGTON COUNTY – Fire Departments across the county are taking part in the annual Canada-wide Fire Prevention Week from Oct. 6 to 12.

This year the theme focuses on the importance of fire escape plans, with the official National Fire Protection Association’s tagline “Not every hero wears a cape. Plan and practice your escape.”

While fire prevention should be an ongoing consideration, Mapleton Fire Chief Rick Richardson and Centre Wellington and Guelph-Eramosa fire prevention officers Chris Paluch and Mat Williamson say the annual event serves a reminder to the public.

“It keeps everybody aware of the need to have smoke alarms/carbon monoxide alarms in every house, making buildings safe where you work by having alarms, fire extinguishers and emergency lights to make it a safe place,” said Richardson.

“I think … with all this going on in the news, these days, people tend to let it go by the wayside. It’s good that we can take a week and focus on really important things like home escape plans,” said  Paluch.

According to a press release provided by Guelph-Eramosa Township fire department, in Canada, most fire deaths occur in the home, where people believe they are most safe.

In 2015, structure fires caused more than 1,400 injuries and almost 200 deaths (fire data for 2012-16 was obtained from 10 of the 13 provincial and territorial offices of the fire marshal/fire commissioner).

“Situational awareness is a skill people need to use wherever they go,” said Williamson.

“No matter where you are, look for available exits. If the fire alarm system sounds, take it seriously and exit the building immediately.”

Not only are safety plans important in the home, work spaces should have safety plans in place and prevention equipment checked.

“What we check for there is making sure they have fire extinguishers at each exit, working fire extinguishers that have been checked and emergency lights so if something happens they can see to get out,” said Richardson.

“We check for fire safety plans so everybody knows how to get out when it’s time, when the alarm goes off, like where do you go and where do you meet,” he added.

Check smoke alarms

One of the most common fire safety hazards is faulty smoke alarms.

“Lack of smoke alarms and not working smoke alarms is probably number one. Just people not putting enough effort into checking them as often as they should.

“And if they take a battery out because it’s bugging them they don’t replace the battery until something happens; so … number one is make sure smoke alarms and fire alarms are working properly,” said Richardson.

Check alarms monthly

Smoke alarms should be checked monthly and should be a habit the whole family can take part in.

“When you leave a room go hit that test button on all those devices once a month. It’s a good reminder to put in your monthly shortlist is,” said Paluch.

Teaching youth early can help make it into a regular routine and an easy reminder.

“It’s great for the kids, they can make it a game, it’s something that they can go and do with mom and dad,” said Paluch.

It is also important to remember not to put anything that isn’t cooking equipment on stove tops.

“Be on top of clutter. These days we bring so much stuff in our house, you go to the mailbox sometimes people are a little bit careless with it, things get put on top of the stove,” said Paluch.

Families should also be cognizant of where lighters and matches are kept and make sure that they are not accessible to children.

Unplug electronics

With so many electronics in the home it is important to make sure that you don’t overload your electrical receptacles.

“In a family everyone might have their own cell phone and their own tablet so people use those, we call them the octo plugs, where they plug into an outlet and all of a sudden two plugs turned into eight plugs or six plugs,” said Paluch.

“It was never designed for that. And they put so much stress on the electrical system that they can sometimes find that weak link and they can be the source of a fire,”

Clear farm access

Some county fire departments are also planning to host information sessions around farm safety this Fire Prevention Safety Week.

There are a number of safety precautions that farmers should be aware of to help prevent farm fires and assist firefighters when a fire takes place.

People should know what their green number is so they can tell us on the phone,” he said.

“Some farmers have a habit of putting farm vehicles and tractors wherever they want and we have problems getting to the issue and so keeping that clear.

“There are other safety things around the farm; in barns you should be checking the electrical [wiring] and have that checked over by an electrician,” said  Richardson.