Expiry dates are tricky things. Sometimes you can ignore them on food with relative safety — but you can’t ignore them on smoke or carbon monoxide alarms.
Yes, those life-saving gadgets have expiry dates.
Firefighters from the Niagara-on-the-Lake Fire Department are going door-to-door this month with the aim of making sure residents have the knowledge and tools they need to be safe in their homes. “Don’t be intimidated if we show up in your neighbourhood with a fire truck — we’re just talking with people and making sure everyone is safe,” says Andrew Allan, Fire Inspector and Public Educator.
The transparently-named Safe Home Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm Program runs twice a year, in spring and fall.
“One of the things we find really surprises people is the ten-year expiry date on smoke alarms,” says Jay Plato, a fire prevention officer with the department. He encourages everyone to check for a label on their unit at home, and make sure it’s still viable. “When it expires,” he says, “the devices inside that detect smoke might not work anymore. It can still make noise that leads you to believe it’s fine, but the sensors may have worn out.”
Smoke alarms have a life expectancy of ten years. Carbon monoxide alarms vary — it is advised that owners check their units’ manuals for details.
Allan explains the program: “We are checking residential smoke and carbon monoxide alarms to ensure proper function and placement. Citizens are also encouraged to talk to firefighters to learn more about keeping your family safe from fire.” They emphasize the importance of an escape plan in case of fire, including agreeing on a safe meeting place. And one of their most important messages: Never go back inside a burning building.
The firefighters find children are usually the most safety-savvy people in a household — perhaps because the fire department works in conjunction with schools and other youth groups to make them that way. “The kids will proudly quote what we told them at school,” says Plato with a smile.
If the visiting firefighters find smoke or carbon monoxide alarms that are not working for any reason, they will replace them. “We will not leave residents unprotected,” says Allan. A partnership with Penner Home Hardware pays for the alarms.
The firefighters from all five districts aim to visit 500 homes during the program. On Sept. 17 they visited the Old Town and Virgil areas; on Sept. 24 they will be in St Davids, Queenston, and Glendale between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m.
Fire Prevention Week is Oct. 7 to 13.