Home fires today can burn faster than ever. Occupants may have as little as one to two minutes to escape safely from the time the smoke alarm sounds. Knowing how to use that time wisely takes planning and practice.
The Castlegar Fire Department is teaming up with the National Fire Protection Association — the official sponsor of Fire Prevention Week for more than 90 years — to promote this year’s Fire Prevention Week campaign: “Look. Listen. Learn. Be aware. Fire can happen anywhere.” The campaign works to educate the public about basic but essential ways to quickly and safely escape a home fire. Fire Prevention Week is Oct. 7 to 13.
Data from Statistics Canada show that the number of structure fires declined by 26 per cent between 2005 and 2014. However, residential fires consistently accounted for roughly six of every 10 structural fires during that period. According to Stats Can, cooking equipment and smokers’ material caused approximately six of every 10 residential fires.
“These numbers show that while we’ve made significant progress in teaching people how to prevent fires from happening, there’s still much more work to do in terms of educating the public about how to protect themselves in the event of one,” said Lorraine Carli, the association’s vice president of outreach and advocacy. “This is particularly critical given the increased speed at which today’s home fires grow and spread.”
Carli notes that home is the place people are at greatest risk for fire, but home is the place people feel safest. That over-confidence contributes to complacency toward home-escape planning and practice.
“Working in the fire service for many years, we know that people often make choices in fire situations that jeopardize their safety or even cost them their lives,” said Castlegar fire chief Sam Lattanzio. “We need to do a better job of teaching people about the potentially life-saving difference escape planning and practice can make and motivating them to action.”
Lattanzio says this year’s “Look. Listen. Learn.” campaign highlights three steps people can take to help quickly and safely escape a fire:
• Look for places fire could start;
• Listen for the sound of the smoke alarm;
• Learn two ways out of every room,
While the National Fire Protection Associationand and Castlegar Fire Department are focusing on home fires, these messages apply to virtually any location.
“Situational awareness is a skill people need to use wherever they go,” said Lattanzio. “No matter where you are, look for available exits. If the alarm system sounds, take it seriously and exit the building immediately.”
The Castlegar Fire Department will be going around again this year to the local daycares and SD 20 elementary schools in support of this year’s Fire Prevention Week campaign.