Fire won’t wait. Plan your escape.
That’s this year’s theme for the 100th annual Fire Prevention Week from Oct. 9 to 15.
“So the basic concepts of that (theme) are to create a fire safety plan within your own home for your family,” said deputy chief Jay Plato of Niagara-on-the-Lake Fire & Emergency Services.
It’s important to have a plan in place in case of any emergencies, including carbon monoxide and other emergencies, he said.
“When minutes count seconds matter and if you don’t have a plan to be able to get out of your house properly, it can go sideways on you pretty quickly,” Plato said.
According to a StatCan study conducted between 2011 and 2020, there were about 220 fire-related deaths in Canada each year during that decade. Eight out of 10 of those fatalities were from accidents.
In the same study, residential fires accounted for 92 per cent of unintentional fire-related deaths. More than twice the number of residential fire-related deaths occurred in the winter compared to the summer.
“The smallest thing can make a difference between life and death,” said Lord Mayor Betty Disero.
“We should be doing things that protect us and protect our firefighters. Because they’re the ones that have to go into a fire to save us,” she added.
A fire plan is all about communication. Plato said it’s good to have a designated meeting place, like at a lamp post outside the house, and have someone in charge of calling 911.
If you have pets, he said it’s good to have someone in charge of getting those pets to safety.
“Just having a plan is basically the key message there. Knowing what to do will benefit you greatly,” he said.
According to the National Fire Prevention Association, cooking is the leading cause of home fires, responsible for roughly 49 per cent of all reported home fires involving cooking equipment. And unattended cooking is the leading cause of home cooking fires.
That is why smoke detectors are so important and should be checked regularly.
It’s good to know if your smoke detector has a dead battery and what it sounds like going off. Plato recommends that people check their alarms monthly.
Since every alarm should have a test button, all people have to do is hit the button and the alarm will go off for 10 to 15 seconds. This allows them to check if it’s working and to get used to the sound.
It’s good to do these tests with the whole family, so everyone can know what it sounds like, Plato said.
In case of an emergency, everyone in the family will be recognize the sound and then the evacuation plan can begin to safely exit the home.
“Practice makes perfect at the end of the day. Practise it a couple times a year. It shouldn’t be a shock or a surprise as to what happens if that alarm ever goes off because of a real emergency,” he said.
For Fire Prevention Week, Plato said the department is hoping to get out in front of grocery stores and local hardware retailers to chat with people and spread the message about fire prevention.
“Fire drills will be conducted in most of the schools across Niagara-on-the-Lake, so we’d like to participate and go and just watch those happen,” he said.
Plato, along with Darren Trostenko, have been acting fire chiefs on a rotating basis since Nick Ruller stepped down as fire chief earlier this year.
The department has been doing well, said Plato.
“We’re just continuing on with all of the positive momentum and positive motion that we had,” he added.
The town is going through the hiring process for the chief position, Disero said in an email to The Lake Report.
It’s important to remember that all of NOTL’s firefighters are volunteers and work hard to keep everyone safe and educated, Plato said.
“It really is a community that helps maintain our fire service and by people doing their part and making sure their fire safe. It really helps in general to ensure we can maintain the volunteer fire model,” he said.