It pays to learn some of the basic facts about fire and carbon monoxide! Our Safety 101 section helps you understand how to protect your family from a variety of dangerous threats.
Tips for preventing fires from starting and handling them if and when they happen
Main Causes of Fire
There are 20,000 house fires in Canada in an average year, resulting in 300 deaths and more than $500 million of property damage. What are the three main causes of fire?
Carelessness and accidents
- Lack of attention when cooking; careless placement of items near the stove.
- Inattentive use of candles.
- Accidents involving gas, propane and solvents.
- Bad judgment or lack of care as a result of intoxication or drug use.
- Short circuits.
- Overloaded systems and fuses.
- Loose connections.
- Frayed cords; improper use of extension cords.
Smoking or fire-lighting material
- Cigarettes (especially falling asleep while smoking or not properly extinguishing cigarettes).
- Children playing with matches or lighters.
Do you REALLY know fire? Be aware of fire facts, myths and realities to protect the ones you love.
Myth: It won’t happen to me
Reality: Everyone is at risk! Statistics prove that one in four people will experience a serious fire in their lifetime that will cause major property damage, injury or even death. Senior citizens and children under the age of five are at greatest risk of fire death.
Myth: Pets can sense danger and usually escape a fire
Reality: Household pets are very vulnerable to fires. Smoke can damage the lungs of a dog or cat in minutes, and sparks can cause painful burns that can remain undetected under the fur.
Myth: Fire spreads slowly and takes a long time to get out of control
Reality: A small flame can turn into a major fire in less than 30 seconds, and it can take as few as 3-5 minutes for an entire house to fill with dense, dark smoke and become engulfed in flames.
Myth: Small, decorative candles do not pose a real fire risk
Reality: Candle fires have nearly tripled from a decade ago. Even a small candle can start a major fire. NEVER leave candles unattended.
Myth: In a fire, the flames are the greatest threat
Reality: Unlike fires you may have seen on TV or in films, real fires produce large amounts of thick, black smoke that obscures vision, causes nausea and may lead to unconsciousness and death. Smoke is full of toxic by-products, including carbon monoxide. These poisonous gases are responsible for most deaths and injuries in fires, not the actual flames.
Myth: Most fires happen in industrial buildings and wooded areas
Reality: Seven out of ten fires in Canada start at home. More fires begin in the kitchen than in any other room in the home.
Myth: Leaving the kitchen briefly while food is cooking is safe
Reality: Most kitchen fires occur because people get distracted and leave their cooking unattended. It takes seconds for a pot or pan to spatter grease or overheat, creating a fire that can quickly spread. Cooking fires are the number one cause of home fires and home fire injuries.
Myth: Most children know not to play with matches
Reality: Children are naturally curious, and this can be dangerous. Hundreds of children die or are seriously injured in fires each year in North America. Children are much more likely to be injured in a fire than adults.
Myth: Kids will instinctively run from fire and escape a burning home
Reality: When children see smoke or fire, they often try to hide instead of flee. Smoke can overcome a child very quickly. Parents need to teach children fire safety and escape plans, and practise with them regularly. As well, test the smoke alarm with your children present so they can recognize the sound, as studies show this can help them wake up in a real emergency.
Carbon Monoxide (CO) is known as the “Silent Killer” because you can’t see it, taste it or smell it.
Sources of CO
The only way to detect the presence of deadly carbon monoxide in your home is with an approved CO alarm.
Carbon monoxide is a by-product of inefficiently burned fuels such as natural gas, oil and propane. Any fuel-burning device produces CO. These include furnaces and heaters, gas stoves and water heaters, wood and gas fireplaces as well as vehicles. The deadly gas can leak back into your home due to blocked or poor venting or flues, or, malfunctioning or poorly maintained systems. Any home with these devices, or an attached garage or carport, should have a working CO alarm installed near bedrooms.
Symptoms of CO PoisoningCO alarms monitor airborne concentration levels of carbon monoxide in parts per million (ppm). They are designed to sense low concentrations over a long period of time as well as high concentrations over a short period of time. Per CSA requirements, all CO alarms will sound when concentrations of 70 ppm are detected. Symptoms of carbon monoxide exposure resemble the flu without the fever: dizziness, nausea and fatigue. Don’t ignore flu-like symptoms that go away when you leave the house – it could indicate the presence of low levels of CO in your home. See your doctor to be sure.
The S.M.A.R.T Rule
Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarms do not last forever!
Many Canadians believe that their smoke alarms last forever. THEY DO NOT. Learn the S.M.A.R.T Rule – know when it is Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm Replacement Time!
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) warns consumers that all smoke alarms need to be replaced every 10 years, whether battery operated or hardwired.
Even though an alarm may sound when you push the Test button or replace the batteries, an outdated alarm may not provide advanced warning and the level of protection you need. Sensors weaken and can become obstructed over time. Replacing old alarms is a must!
Teach children about fire safety in a way that does not frighten them. Help them understand not only how they can help prevent fire, but also what to do if there is a fire.
Fire is not for children
- Keep all fire-starting material out of the reach of children, and tell them NEVER to play with matches, lighters or flammable materials.
- If you smoke, have only one lighter or matchbook, and keep it with you at all times.
Stop, drop and roll!
Teach children what to do if their clothes catch on fire. Have them pretend there is an emergency and take the following steps:
- Stop – Get them to stop moving and NEVER run if they have fire on them.
- Drop – Get them to drop to the floor as quickly as possible.
- Roll – Have them cover their face with their hands, then roll over and over until the flames are out.
Smoke can be as dangerous as fire
- Tell children that smoke can be very harmful, and in the case of a fire, the smoke can put them to sleep and keep them from escaping.
- Smoke rises, so cleaner, cooler air is near the floor. Have children pretend the room is full of smoke and get down on their hands and knees and crawl low under the smoke to the nearest exit.
Know how to call for help
- Teach children to dial 911 in case of a fire emergency. Have older children memorize the phone number of the local fire department.
- Ensure that all children know their full address so they can direct fire services to where they live.
The older kids are, the more they should know
- Young children need to understand the basics of escaping fire, but don’t frighten them or overwhelm them.