Part 1 of 2: Be prepared – fire safety plan
Each year, many Canadians are injured or die in house and apartment fires. Cigarette smoking, cooking, fires, faulty electrical wiring and children playing with matches can cause fires. Learn how to prevent fires and what to do if there is one in your building. Fortunately, there are many things you can do to help protect yourself and your family.
• If you smoke, always use a wide, deep ashtray. Do not smoke in bed or on the sofa when you're drowsy. Better yet, smoke outside.
• Keep matches and lighters away from children. Teach them they are tools for adults only. • Ensure cigarettes, pipes, cigars, matches are fully extinguished – if in doubt, douse them in water.
appliance and electrical safety
• Check electrical cords, plugs and outlets regularly. Replace worn, split or damaged cords immediately or discard appliances if their cords feel warm.
• Have an electrician investigate blackened plugs or electrical outlets.
• Do not overload electrical outlets by using an "octopus" outlet.
• If you use an extension cord, do not run it under carpets where it can be damaged.
• Do not leave halogen lights on when you are not in your apartment. They generate a lot of heat and can set paper or fabric (drapes, wall hangings, etc.) on fire.
• Ensure electric outlets in proximity to sinks and bathtubs are ground fault indicator (GFI) type outlets.
candles and lamps
• Keep curtains and other flammable materials away from lights and candles.
• Use candles cautiously. Never leave them unsupervised, particularly around children.
• Use proper candle holders and place them on surfaces that won't catch fire and away from flammable materials.
• Trim wicks to prevent large, unstable flames.
• Ensure candles and lamps are fully extinguished when you are finished with them.
• Never leave grease (deep fry) cooking unattended.
• Never use water to put out a grease fire. In a grease fire, cover the pan with a close-fitting lid or use baking soda to smother the flames.
• If you can't immediately control a grease fire, get yourself and your family out fast, activate the apartment fire alarm and call 9-1-1 from a safe phone.
• Clean grease from burner pans and the stovetop regularly.
• Keep a filled, kitchen-rated fire extinguisher in the kitchen and know how to use it. Place it in an easy-to-grab location away from the stove so you can use it quickly.
• Never use a barbecue indoors. Many municipalities do not permit the use of barbecues on balconies. If you use a barbecue on your balcony, keep it away from surfaces and materials that can catch fire and turn it off before leaving it unsupervised. If you use charcoal, cover and smother the coals before you leave it unattended.
• Do not put burning materials such as cigarettes and ashes into the garbage chute;
• Do not dispose of flammable liquids or aerosol cans in the chutes;
• Do not force cartons, coat hangers or bundles of paper into the garbage chutes.
Smoke alarms save lives. Smoke inhalation causes most fire-related deaths, and most happen at night. Smoke alarms detect smoke in the early stages of a fire and sound an alarm to warn you of a fire in time to let you escape. There are different types of smoke alarms with different features. Alarms can be electrically connected, battery powered or a combination of both. A combined type, with a pause feature to reduce nuisance alarms, is highly recommended for apartment use. Look for an alarm with a ULC certification and easy-to-use features – and make sure it has a commonly available battery that is easy to change.
You should have at least one smoke detector in your apartment. Preferably, you should have one in every room except bathrooms, the kitchen and closets. Avoid locations near bathrooms, heating appliances, windows or ceiling fans. Always follow the manufacturer's installation instructions. Test your smoke alarms once a month using the alarm test button. If the low-battery warning beeps, replace the battery immediately.
Change the battery at least once a year. Provincial and territorial fire marshals recommend changing batteries either when you change your clocks to standard time or when you change to daylight saving time. At that time the fire marshals recommend that you test your alarms using smoke from a smouldering cotton string – remembering to douse the string in water before throwing it out.
Gently vacuum the alarm every six months. Dust and spider webs can clog a smoke alarm and prevent it from working properly. Follow your owner's manual and carefully vacuum the inside of a battery-powered unit using the soft bristle brush. If the smoke detector is connected to your electrical system, shut off the power and vacuum the outside vents only. Restore power and test the smoke alarm when finished.
Never disable your smoke alarm for any reason. If it is too sensitive, that is, it goes off when no smoke is visible, move it somewhere else or replace it.
Smoke alarms wear out and you should replace them every five to 10 years. Check the age of the smoke detector (the manufacturing date is usually printed on a label inside the detector) if you move into an apartment with one. If it is more than 10 years old, replace it.
Make sure everyone in your apartment recognizes the sound of the alarm and knows what to do if there is a fire.