Every 55 seconds a Canadian home burns. In fact, more fires happen in residential homes than anywhere else. That’s probably because home is where we feel safe and where we go to relax and enjoy life at our own pace. Unfortunately, when we least expect it is when a fire can do the most damage. So prepare yourself now with these fire safety tips!
Cooking is the leading cause of home fires and home-fire injuries. And it’s no wonder: 50% of kitchen fires result from grease or oil, the fastest-spreading and most destructive type of fire. It may only take a couple of seconds to run out to the barbecue, but it’s all that’s needed for a drop of oil to pop, catch and spread into an out of control fire.
- Never leave the kitchen when broiling or stovetop cooking
- Never leave the house when the oven is on
- Use a timer, and carry a kitchen spoon as a reminder
- Don’t wear loose-fitting clothes
- Use oven mitts, not a dishtowel
- Keep pot handles turned inwards
- Keep your oven clean
- Use appliances that shut off automatically
- Only use an electric skillet or deep fryer with thermostatic-control
- Broil with the rack 5 to 8 cm below the element and a drip pan beneath the rack (not aluminum foil)
- Never move a flaming pot or pan
- Keep a pot lid or cookie sheet nearby to smother a pan fire
Cigarette smoking is the fifth-leading cause of home fires in Canada but the leading cause of fire-related deaths nationally, and worldwide. Fallen cigarettes or embers can smoulder undetected for hours producing smoke with lethal poisons. In fact, most fire casualties are killed by smoke inhalation, not the flame of the fire, and oftentimes are rendered unconscious before they have a chance to wake.
- Do not smoke in your home, or at least not in bedrooms
- Extinguish cigarettes in water before throwing them out
- Never leave cigarettes in an ashtray unattended
- Use ashtrays with a double rim and deep centre
- Place sand-filled cans outdoors, away from buildings and where people smoke
- Store lighters and matches out of sight and reach of children (18-month-olds have started fires with lighters)
Temperature drops and it’s tempting to use heating appliances. Make sure the equipment you’re using is certified by a recognized testing agency. Also keep in mind that recent appliances will also be more energy-efficient. Never dry clothes on it, leave it on unsupervised or less than 3 feet away from flammable objects.
If you have a wood burning stove or fireplace, make sure you have the chimney inspected and swept by a WETT certified chimney sweep before you start the new season and complete any necessary repairs. (check our home winter survival guide for more tips)
Like with cigarettes, most fires caused by candles start in the bedroom after being left lit and unattended or when someone fell asleep.
- Use sturdy, burn-resistant candle holders, big enough to collect dripping wax
- Don’t place lit candles near windows, curtains or other flammables
- Never burn candles in high traffic areas where children or pets could knock them over
- Never leave children or pets alone with lit candles
- Extinguish candles once they’re 2 inches from the base
- Keep candle wicks trimmed to 6.5 mm
- Don’t walk with a lit candle. During power outages, hold it well away from you and remember you can’t see what combustibles may be ahead in the dark
- Never use a candle to light or to help you see closely a lantern or equipment with fuel
In Canada there are no laws governing the quality of candles and they are not tested by a safety agency before being put on the market. Be suspicious of the materials, and avoid novelty candles with paint, paper, or ornaments or dried flowers, and check holders just as dubiously.
Between Christmas decorations and having people over, you might have to use your electrical outlets at full capacity. Avoid overloading them, covering them with fabric or rugs, or leave them in areas where wires can be damaged.
How to detect, fight and flee
Think about this: over one-third of home fire deaths occur in homes without smoke alarms. Now go and check that yours is working properly. In fact, you should have many, outside all bedrooms, and on every floor. Visit Health Canada’s web site to learn more about fire alarms and how to keep yours functioning properly.
Every home should have a fire extinguisher, and not just one. Did you know that there are different classes of extinguishers, coded according to the type of fire they are designed to put out? Ideally, place a BC extinguisher in the kitchen, an A in the living room, and an ABC in the basement and garage. Know that the higher the number rating, the more fire it puts out but that all fire extinguishers are meant to put out only a small fire. Once used even a bit, an extinguisher needs to be recharged by a professional.
Fire spreads quickly and most fire fatalities take place between 2 am and 4 am. Prepare yourself and your family now with an escape plan in the event a fire gets out of control. Get down on the floor in the middle of night and practice your plan, the kids will never forget it!
Chantal Bibeau, Chef de prévention for the city of Laval in Quebec has the most important advice of all: “Many people try to put out a potential fire by themselves rather than calling the fire department. The few minutes it takes before the fire is out of hand is often all we would have needed to save their home, or prevent serious injuries. Firefighters are there, just waiting to help you. It’s a public service that’s already paid for by your tax dollars, so why not get the help you need at no charge and as quickly as possible.”