CHESTERMERE – Although the members of the Rocky View Fire Service work to promote fire prevention on a year-round basis, the annual Fire Prevention Week gives them added opportunity to spread the word about fire safety in the community.
Fire Prevention Week is taking place from Oct. 9 – 15 across North America, and this year’s theme is “Protect Your Family From Fire.” Despite the fact that fewer fire losses are reported in Canada, on average eight Canadians still die from fire every week. So, fire departments across Canada are working especially hard this week to promote public awareness of the dangers of fire and how to prevent it.
“We don’t promote fire prevention for one week of the year, it’s always a continuous thing,” said local firefighters Ryan King. “We’ll do fire inspections on different buildings, or conduct fire drills at local schools.
“We’ll also do presentations at some of the schools, let them see the truck, talk about safety measures, that sort of thing.”
Firefighter Joe Wohl said that they also stop by the local preschool to talk about the basic “stop, drop, and roll” a few times per year, and that they have also been stopping by block parties to answer questions.
King said that no official fire safety programs are in place yet, but that they are working on getting some going in the near future.
”Most of the things we do are by request but we’ll help out anytime,” King said.
The SE Rocky View Fire Service responds to more medical calls and investigations than actual fire calls in the Chestermere area, but King said that a lot of their fire prevention happens when they attend calls regarding alarms or smoke detectors.
”We do a lot of fire prevention there because people aren’t aware of how their smoke detectors actually work,” he said. “A lot of the time the batteries are dead, or the detector is expired.
“A lot of people aren’t aware that smoke detectors needs to be replaced every ten years. Manufacturers actually recommend that you change it every five years unless you do regular maintenance on it.”
It is recommended that every floor of the house as well as the garage, have a smoke detector, and that they be cleaned on a regular basis to prevent dust from affecting their functionality.
Second to being aware of how smoke detectors work, the local firefighters recommend that everyone has at least one fire extinguisher in their home.
“A lot of people don’t realize or even think about putting on in,” King said. “Putting in a two or five pound fire extinguisher can save so much time during a fire.
“Even if you don’t know how to use it, sometimes it helps to just take it, spray it and get out of the house.”
Fire extinguishers are available at stores likes Walmart and Canadian Tire.
Family Escape Plans
A third aspect of fire safety that is recommended for every family to be aware of is a proper escape plan. Captain James Thompson said that every family should have a plan that includes escape routes and meeting places, especially in homes with young children or with elderly or disabled residents.
“History has shown that not a lot of people do this,” Thompson said. “A lot of people have a mental plan or think that the kids know where to go without actually testing it.
“Some families do have a plan, but more need to consider doing this.”
Whol suggested that families also establish a place to meet as part of their escape plan, such as at a neighbors house, to make sure everyone is accounted for in a timely manner.
“When we go to the schools, we try to send the kids home with some “homework” to make sure their family has an escape plan,” Whol said. “It’s very simple and kid-oriented, but the parents can help, and it just helps to establish exits, a meeting place and basic things like that.”
One thing that local firefighters recommend is that people in the community educate themselves on the proper way to store chemicals in their homes and yards.
“We can’t enforce private residences, can just offer helpful suggestions on how to safely store products,” Thompson said. “Businesses we can enforce based on building and fire codes, but with residences we do our best to educate.”
Thompson said that the first step is to eliminate accelerants in the home. Anything from small propane tanks for camping to regular BBQ propane tanks should be stored away from the house, such as in a shed, or that they should be stored in fire-proof cabinets.
Thomspon said that everyone should always be aware of what they have in the house that can cause a fire or damage, whether it will ignite a fire or cause the house to burn faster.
“The amount of things that can start a fire are phenomenal,” he said.
He said that keeping flammables away from space heaters, keeping space heaters in safe places, making sure candles are burning safely, and making sure extension cords are safe are just a few things that should be done to prevent fires in the home.
Overall, Captain Thompson said that Fire Prevention Week is all about making sure people protect themselves.
“We’ll always do what we need to do, but if families can look after each other and get everyone out of their homes or prevent a fire in the first place, everyone goes on to see another day,” he said. “Protect yourself against fire, and help you help us, to help you.
“Take care of yourselves.”
There are 5, 300 fires per year in Alberta. Fires are happening.
For more information about Fire Prevention Week, go to www.fiprecan.ca.