Fire-safing your home: what’s needed, what isn’t and what’s new

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“Look. Listen. Learn. Beware. Fire can happen anywhere.”

Be proactive. Be aware. Be ready. That’s the message behind this year’s Fire Prevention Week, an annual international effort to raise awareness about the dangers of fires and how to prevent them.

Running from Oct. 8 to Oct. 13, Fire Prevention Week 2018 aims to “educate people about three basic, but essential steps to take to reduce the likelihood of having a fire and how to escape safely in the event of one,” the City of Yellowknife stated on its website. The city, like many jurisdictions across the country, is recognizing the week-long campaign – which commemorates the destruction and loss of life caused by the Great Chicago Fire of Oct. 8, 1871 – alongside the Yellowknife Fire Division and the NWT Office of the Fire Marshal.

This year, residents are encouraged to keep the three “Ls” in mind:

“Look” – Take time to locate and remove potential fire hazards inside your home.

“Listen” – Remain attentive to the sound of your smoke alarm. You may only have minutes to exit your home once the alarm goes off. Go to a designated outside meeting place where family members know to go.

“Learn” – Establish two exits for every room and ensure all doors and windows leading outside open easily and that nothing is blocking them.

This year’s focus urges homeowners to have a plan and, of course,  to listen to their smoke alarm. But, as technology advances and smoke detectors evolve from blinking bleepers to voice-alert hybrids, does the battery-powered classic that hangs on many city walls cut it anymore? And, besides a smoke alarm, does the average homeowner really need anything else to safeguard their home from a fire?

According to the Government of Canada, yes.

Fire extinguishers, state federal guidelines, should be kept in the home in the event of small fires. Just make sure you know what you’re doing with it.

“It is important to make sure you can comfortably hold and operate the one you buy,” the guidelines state.

Make sure to install the fire extinguisher near an escape route and have it inspected regularly, the guide adds.

While fire extinguishers may not be as commonplace as smoke alarms in Yellowknife households, Steve Prowse, owner of Yellowknife-based North Fire Systems, says they should be.

Richard Castada, a manager at Canadian Tire in Yellowknife, says basic “tested and proven” battery-powered smoke alarms are the biggest draws for conscious consumers. But new advances to smoke detection, like hardwired systems, offer added protection, says North Fire Systems-owner Steve Prowse. Brendan Burke/NNSL photo.
Richard Castada, a manager at Canadian Tire in Yellowknife, says basic “tested and proven” battery-powered smoke alarms are the biggest draws for conscious consumers. But new advances to smoke detection, like hardwired systems, offer added protection, says North Fire Systems-owner Steve Prowse. Brendan Burke/NNSL photo.

“Every home should have one. Fire extinguishers are your first line of defence,” Prowse told Yellowknifer.

“If it’s there, you can act quickly and hopefully knock the fire down and call the fire department before it becomes a major issue,” he added.

At Canadian Tire on Old Airport Road, fire extinguishers can set shoppers back between $60 to over a $100 depending on the size and power of the extinguisher.

But, Richard Castada, a store manager, says fire extinguishers aren’t flying off the shelves. Instead, said Castada , most customers opt for the basic “tested and proven” battery-powered smoke detector. Despite new features including hardwired smoke and carbon monoxide detectors that yell “fire!” through a voice alert, Castada said the $20 to $30 battery-powered options are the biggest sells.

While hardwired smoke detectors – alarms connected to a home’s power supply – might not be replacing tried and true battery-powered models just yet, Steve Prowse believes it’s a safe option to fall back on.

Prowse said battery-powered alarms will get the job done, but if your house supports a hardwired system – do it.

“If you do have hard wired capabilities, use your hard wire with battery backup,” he said, adding the hardwired route offers “more protection” in the event smoke detector batteries die unbeknownst to a homeowner.

Depending on features, including a 3-in-1 smoke, propane and carbon monoxide detector, new-age alarms can cost consumers anywhere from $40 to $95 in Yellowknife.

“For life safety, there’s no price on that,” said Prowse.

Castada also sells fireproof safes, marketed as a protected place for valuables in the event of a blaze. The pricey and non-essential fire safety aid isn’t a big draw, either, he said.

Despite the dizzying array of options, the consensus is clear: whether it’s battery-powered or hardwired – just make sure you have one and that it’s working. The GNWT recommends checking smoke alarms monthly.

 

Look, listen and learn tips

Smoke alarms

Install smoke alarms near all bedrooms and on each level of your home.

Test batteries once a month.

Replace smoke alarms that are more than 10 years old.

Devise an escape plan with family or roommates.

Candles

Candles can pose a serious fire risk. Make sure all candles are out before going to bed and never leave one unattended.

Don’t light candles near flammable items or materials such as curtains and clothing.

Lighters and matches

Smoking remains the leading cause of house fires. If you smoke and keep matches or lighters around, make sure they’re kept away from children at all times.

Talk to your kids about the risks of lighters and maters in the home.

Power cords

Keep cords for electrical appliances, such as deep fryers, kettles, steam irons and toasters, out of the reach of children. They can be hurt or burned if they pull an appliance off a counter.

Ensure cords are a safe distance from heat and water sources.

Make sure that the proper indoor and outdoor cords are used for electrical products.

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Brendan Burke
As the Yellowknifer’s crime reporter, it’s my job to keep readers up to speed on all-things “cops and courts” related. From house fires and homicides to courtroom clashes, it’s my responsibility to be there - day or night, rain or shine. When I’m not at court gathering stories, I’m in the office, making calls to lawyers, emailing RCMP and tracking down sources. After hours, I rely on the public to let me know what’s happening and where. Entering my second winter in Yellowknife since leaving my hometown of Peterborough, Ont., in October 2017, everyday on this beat continues to be challenging, rewarding and fulfilling. Got a story? Call me at (867) 766-8288 or shoot me an email at editorial@nnsl.com.