Safety in and Around the Home

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Smoke Detectors

Approved-type properly installed and maintained smoke detectors are critical life saving devices. While a smoke detector won't prevent or extinguish a fire, it can save one's life. Smoke detectors are designed to warn of fire danger in time to allow for escape or call for help. The ear-piercing alarm of the smoke detector may provide you and your family with the precious extra minutes that you need to escape, especially at night (when most fires occur).

When installing smoke detectors, the fire chief advises you to take the following steps:

  • Install at least one smoke detector in the hall leading to the bedrooms
  • Consider installing additional smoke detectors, especially if your home has more than one level
  • Make sure smoke detectors are of a type approved by Underwriters' Laboratories of Canada or other recognized testing laboratory
  • If your detectors are battery operated, check the batteries often to make sure the units are operational.

Fire Drills

A fire is no fun...but practicing fire safety can be. Here are some fire safety rules that the whole family can practice together.

  • Sketch the layout of each floor, including windows, doors, and stairways. Make sure that every family member is familiar with the layout.
  • Work out TWO escape routes from each room and mark them clearly on the sketch
  • Hold frequent fire drills, including some at night, so everyone will know what to do and be able to act quickly in an emergency
  • Assign a member of the family to be responsible for the elderly or the very young to help them escape. A 'buddy system' should be organized to ensure their safety
  • Designate a meeting place outside of the home and instruct everyone to go there at once in case of fire
  • COUNT heads, stay together and DO NOT go back into the house for personal belongings

Now, have someone call the fire department from the nearest available phone by dialing 911.

Practice Child Safety

Every year hundreds of people are killed or bodily injured in fires where they live. The victims of fire are most often children, older people, or handicapped persons. Many of these fires are the result of accidents that could have been prevented. The elimination of all fire hazards is the key to any effective fire safety program. As most fires are the result of carelessness, the greatest element of safety comes from prevention.

  • Keep trash in covered containers and dispose of it regularly
  • Store paints, paint thinners and other flammable materials in their original containers and in a well ventilated area, away from all fire sources
  • Clean work areas of paint, sawdust, or trash after every do-it-yourself project
  • Don't overload circuits or use frayed electrical extension cords
  • Have all electrical wiring checked by a competent electrician periodically to make sure it is not faulty
  • Use only fuses and circuit breakers which bear the labels of nationally recognized certification and testing agencies
  • Never run an extension cord under a rug or behind curtains
  • Do not let large amounts of trash accumulate either indoors or outdoors. Clean attics, basements, closets, garages, and sheds frequently


In this age of high energy costs, adding insulation to your house can save you energy, but it could also lead to a fire. Your fire chief advises you to have your home electrical system checked and have deficiencies corrected by a qualified electrician, especially before installing insulation. Always, always, make sure insulation is kept away from ceiling light fixtures and other heat sources.

If you must have gasoline around the house

  • Always store it in approved safety containers - these can be expensive, but it is cheap "fire insurance"
  • Always have a fire extinguisher marked for "B" type fires (Gasoline and other flammable liquids) - Be sure you know how to use it!
  • Always keep the minimum amount of gas required
  • Always store the container in a cool and well ventilated area. Keep it away from any source of heat or sparks such as water heater, electric motor or car engines
  • Always store gasoline at ground level, never place gasoline containers in an elevated position such as a table top, or workbench.
  • Always store the containers in the garage or shed rather than the house
  • Never carry gasoline in the trunk of your car
  • Always keep gasoline away from children
  • Never siphon gasoline by sucking the hose; gasoline can be fatal to adults too, if swallowed
  • Never use gasoline as a cleaner, a charcoal starter or a solvent

If you do have a gasoline fire and don't have a "B" type fire extinguisher

  • Get everyone away from the fire
  • Call the Fire department by dialing 911
  • Stay calm
  • Never use water to put out a gasoline fire

Fire Extinguishers at Home

When used properly, a portable fire extinguisher can save lives and property by putting out a small fire or controlling it until the fire department arrives. Portable extinguishers, intended for the home, are not designed to fight large or spreading fires. However, even against small fires, they are useful only under certain conditions:

  • The operator must know how to use the extinguisher. There is no time to read directions during an emergency.
  • The extinguisher must be within easy reach and in working order, fully charged.
  • Some models are unsuitable for use on grease or electrical fires.

Select Your Extinguisher

Choose your extinguisher carefully. A fire extinguisher should bear the seal of an independent testing laboratory. It should also be labeled as to the type of fire it is intended to extinguish.

The extinguisher must be large enough to put out the fire. Most portable extinguishers discharge completely in as few as eight seconds.

Classes of fires: There are three basic classes of fires. All fire extinguishers are labeled with standard symbols for the classes of fires they can put out. A red slash through any of the symbols tells you the extinguisher cannot be used on that class fire. A missing symbol tells you only that the extinguisher has not been tested for use on a given class of fire.

  • Class A: Ordinary combustibles such as wood, cloth, paper, rubber, and many plastics.
  • Class B: Flammable liquids such as gasoline, oil, grease, tar, oil-based paint, lacquer, and flammable gas.
  • Class C: Energized electrical equipment including wiring, fuse boxes, circuit breakers, machinery, and appliances.

Many household fire extinguishers are "multipurpose" A-B-C models, labeled for use on all three classes of fire. If you are ever faced with a Class A fire, and you don't have an extinguisher with an "A" symbol, don't hesitate to use one with the "B:C" symbols.

Warning: It is dangerous to use water or an extinguisher labeled only for Class A fires on a grease or electrical fire.

Installation and Maintenance

Extinguishers should be installed in plain view above the reach of children near an escape route and away from stoves and heating appliances.

Extinguishers require routine care. Read your operator's manual and ask your dealer how your extinguisher should be inspected and serviced. Rechargeable models must be serviced after every use. Disposable fire extinguishers can be used only once; they must be replaced after one use. Following manufacturer's instructions, check the pressure in your extinguishers once a month.

Remember the Pass Word

Stand 6 to 8 feet away from the fire and follow the four-step PASS procedure. If the fire does not begin to go out immediately, leave the area at once. Always be sure the fire department inspects the fire site.

PULL the pin out: This unlocks the operating lever and allows you to discharge the extinguisher. Some extinguishers have other devices that prevent inadvertent operation.

AIM low: Point the extinguisher nozzle (or hose) at the base of the fire.

SQUEEZE the lever below the handle: This discharges the extinguishing agent. Releasing the lever will stop the discharge. Some extinguishers have a button that you press.

SWEEP from side to side: Moving carefully toward the fire, keep the extinguisher aimed at the base of the fire and sweep back and forth until the flames appear to be out. Watch the fire area. If the fire re-ignites, repeat the process.

Should You Fight the Fire?

Before you begin to fight a fire:

  • Make sure everyone has left, or is leaving, the building.
  • Make sure the fire department has been notified by dialing 911.
  • Make sure the fire is confined to a small area and that it is not spreading beyond the immediate area.
  • Make sure you have an unobstructed escape route to which the fire will not spread.
  • Make sure that you have read the instructions and that you know how to use the extinguisher.
  • It is dangerous to fight a fire under any other circumstances. Instead, leave immediately and close off the doors and windows if possible.

Furnaces, Heaters, Fireplaces

Inspect, clean or replace your filter. Inspect all the air outlets and intakes, and confirm nothing is blocking the opening. If you have an opening near furniture place air deflectors on the outlets to keep the flow of heated air from being directed onto the furniture. Look in the bedrooms for clothes covering the openings. For chimneys inspect outside for any overgrowth that may have occurred during the summer.

Fuel-Burning Furnace

Your furnace flue must be inspected regularly. Your furnace give off heat and something else too - carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide gas has often been described as the 'silent killer'. Clear, colorless and tasteless, it is difficult to detect.

If your furnace flue is clogged or loose, carbon monoxide could be going into your lungs instead of up the chimney. Your fire chief advises you to have your flue inspected on a regular basis by a qualified workman before it's too late for an inspection to make a difference.

Wood Burning Appliances

These are a subject of expanding use and concern due to rising energy costs. Experts do not recommend the purchase or installation of any wood burning stove unless it is air-tight and has controlled airflow. Your fire chief advises you that if you are burning a lot of wood, your stovepipe and chimney may have a heavy buildup of creosote. If the creosote were to catch fire, your roof could catch fire too. So clean out creosote before it wipes you out. Fireplace chimneys should be inspected and cleaned at least once a year, stovepipe chimneys once a month.

Furnace Maintenance

If your furnace is not properly maintained you could be in very big trouble. Carbon monoxide, the 'silent killer' could be spreading throughout your house as a result of the malfunction, it is highly flammable and explosive increasing to a great degree the risk of fire, injury, and death. The fire chief advises you to have your furnace inspected on a regular basis by a qualified professional. Why take a chance when your life and that of your family depends on it?

Keep an Eye on Your Chimney

It may never be necessary to sweep chimneys of homes heated by oil or gas. Any problem with the chimney should be spotted during the annual inspection of the furnace performed by a qualified, knowledgeable professional. However, it is necessary to sweep regularly chimneys of homes heated by solid fuels (wood and coal) because of creosote buildup associated with the burning of some grades of wood and coal. The resins and gases produced by a smoldering fire don't burn off but go up the chimney where they condense into creosote and present a fire hazard. After a period of time, starting a fire can set the chimney aflame.

Coal & Wood Burning Appliances

These types of appliances and their accessories are a subject of expanding use and concern due to rising energy costs. With the increased use of wood and coal stoves more information is needed by the home owner. For someone considering the installation of a wood or coal stove, a fireplace, or a solid-fuel furnace, careful consideration must be given to the safety aspects of the equipment and the installation. Expert advice is often required. Instructions must be followed to the letter. Anyone intending to change or modify his heating system should discuss the matter with his insurance agent, broker, or company. The proposed action may be considered an additional risk for which an appropriate premium may be required. For additional information on the safe installation and use of solid fuel burning appliances and accessories, contact your fire department.

Clothes Dryer

Always inspect and clean the lint trap.


Confirm your house is well marked and easily identifiable for emergency personnel. If you live out of the urban setting, or off the road make sure you have an address marker at the street. On your home or at the street it is preferred to use reflective numbers measuring at least 3 inches in height. Take the time to clear a path to your house, it is nice and quaint to have a covered lane leading to your house, but when access is restricted so is help.

Additional Information

For any additional information do not hesitate to call your local fire department on the NON-EMERGENCY number which can be found in your local phone book. We are here to help you.