Did you know we are about to enter National Fire Prevention Week? National Fire Prevention Week is observed each year during the second week of October in the United States and Canada, in commemoration of the Great Chicago Fire, which began on October 8, 1871, and caused devastating damage.
When it comes to fire safety, the statistics I found were quite alarming. On average eight people are killed in fires each week within Canada, with residential fires accounting for 73% of these fatalities. These numbers seem ridiculously high, and got me thinking about how important it is to have a fire safety plan and for it to be discussed with all of the people around me, no matter what my location – home, work or even other public places. What would I do if there was a fire? Where are my valuables stored (insurance documents, will, family heirlooms, identification)? What is the plan for ensuring children and pets are safe? Where are my closest exits at work or places I frequent? Where is the muster point? All of these key factors and more need to be added to my personal safety plan.
In a typical fire, I found out that you may have as little as one to two minutes to escape safely from the time the smoke alarm sounds. To help keep you, your family and colleagues safe, I have compiled some top tips on fire prevention for the home and workplace.
HOME FIRE PREVENTION:
- Be sure to install and test smoke detectors within the home at least twice a year. One should be located on each level of the home, including the basement. A great reminder for testing and changing the batteries in your detectors is to do it the weekends of Daylight Savings in spring and fall.
- Keep a small and easy-use fire extinguisher on-hand in the home. This will last 10 – 15 years if properly maintained. An ideal place to store it is in the kitchen.
- Ensure safe cooking procedure are always used in the kitchen: never leave cooking unattended, always check that appliances are turned off and even unplugged when not in use (including stove burners), and in the case of a grease fire DO NOT throw water on it. Instead, cover the blaze if possible with a pot lid, to stop the access of oxygen, or dump baking soda on the flame.
- Avoid plugging in multiple electrical items into one outlet. When needed, make use of power bars and look for one with an internal circuit breaker.
- If using a wood burning fireplace, ensure a properly fitting fire screen is placed in front of any burning fire and remove any flammable items away from the hearth.
- In the bathrooms, be sure to turn off and unplug any hot styling tools when not in use, such as curling irons, straighteners, blow dryers, etc. and keep flammable items, such as hairspray, at a safe distance from these tools when in use.
- If smoking indoors, ensure cigarettes are put out in proper ashtrays and always check for stray embers on furniture and carpet. Never leave cigarettes unattended, and keep them, along with matches and lighters out of reach from children.
- When using candles in your home, never leave them unattended.
- Outside, be sure to properly turn off barbeques (gas and propane) when not in use. Ensure any flammable items, such as gasoline, paint thinner, cleaners, fertilizer, etc, are proper stored away from any open flames or heat sources.
FIRE PREVENTION AT WORK:
- Equip your workspace with the appropriate safety tools, such as fire extinguishers, safety sprinklers, and alarm systems, while removing or ensuring the proper storage of any hazardous and flammable materials.
- Keep a clean and clear path available to all exits and ensure emergency exists are clearly marked. A map of how to safely exit the premises, based on current location, should be respectively located in multiple areas of a workplace.
- Ensure an Emergency Safety Plan is in place for your team, or anyone on-site, that outlines who is in charge of the plan, the proper evacuation, a muster point and any other critical details for your place of employment. Practice this as a Fire Drill at least twice a year.
- Unplug any electrical tools or appliances when not in use – such as space heaters, toasters, etc.
- Perform regular scheduled maintenance on all electrical equipment on-site.
- Designate a safe, outdoor smoking area and provide proper cigarette disposable receptacles.
Most fire incidents can be prevented and with safety knowledge, along with awareness of your surroundings at home and on the job, we can help avoid these devastating occurrences. Think ahead, stay safe, and let’s always strive for fire prevention.