At the time of writing this article, fire has claimed the lives of 17 people in the month of January, within Ontario. Most recently, six children have passed away as a result of fires in Brampton and Sandy Lake First Nation. These tragic events serve as a somber reminder that fire safety is everyone’s responsibility.
Everyone knows they need a smoke alarm in their house, but so many are still unsure exactly where to put it, that the batteries need to be changed, or that they expire. Fire prevention departments across the province work tirelessly to push these critical messages. Yet, time and time again, we meet individuals through public education events or emergency responses that are unaware of these items. Between fire departments, the provincial government, and businesses developing and making fire safety products, strategies are in place to ensure citizens, not just in Ontario but across Canada and the world, become fire safe. These parties working together can still not do it all. The last step is personal accountability for ensuring you and your family are fire safe.
Every municipality in Ontario must establish a program that includes public education with respect to fire safety and certain components of fire prevention. This is mandated by the Fire Protection and Prevention Act. For most municipalities, this is completed by the local Fire Department. This is the first strategy and tool used to create the behavioural change required surrounding smoke alarms and other fire safety messages. You don’t have to look very hard to find these messages all over the place. There may be posters in your workplace, ads on social media, firefighters talking with community members at events, or interviews with Fire Prevention Officers or Fire Chiefs on the news. Fire Safety messages are spread everywhere frequently. Not all people across Ontario can be reached by these methods, however. This is where the provincial government comes in to assist.
The provincial government has enacted legislation requiring all homes have working smoke alarms. This law provided municipalities and fire departments with additional tools to assist in trying to ensure citizens are remaining fire safe. New homes must have smoke alarms installed on all floor levels, outside and inside bedrooms, and older homes must have them installed on every floor level and outside bedrooms. Not having smoke alarms in these locations can lead to charges, fines, or even jail time. If education does not seem to be working or sinking in, fire departments have the ability to enforce these laws with the intent of leaving a more lasting impression about the requirements of having a working smoke alarm.
Lastly, while fire departments are doing what they can, businesses developing and creating fire safety products are also working hard to assist in making homes safer, making it easier to keep you and your family safe in a fire emergency. The introduction of hard-wired interconnected smoke alarms helped ensure you were alerted of an emergency on another level in your home faster. These devices can now also be connected wirelessly in some cases. Built-in 10-year lithium batteries now don’t require a battery change for the life of the device. Residential sprinklers are also a fantastic tool to assist in keeping your family safe. There are many misconceptions about the operation of sprinklers and their capabilities; however, that’s an article for another day.
With these organizations working together using education, legislation and technology to keep the citizens of Ontario safe, there is one last step that these parties cannot control. These organizations cannot control personal responsibility. Fire safety is everyone’s responsibility. Please take the necessary steps to ensure you are keeping your family safe. Test your smoke alarms monthly. Change your batteries at least once a year. Ensure your smoke alarm is not expired.