There have already been a large number of fatal house fires in the GTA and across Ontario in 2018.
“It’s an alarming and tragic trend,” says Dr. Marc Jeschke, director of the Ross Tilley Burn Centre at Sunnybrook.
While there doesn’t appear to be any one cause for the sudden increase in fires, there are steps everyone can take to keep themselves and their families safe from fires and burn injuries this winter.
Here are four tips from Dr. Jeschke:
1) Test your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
Fires spread incredibly quickly. You have only a minute or two to get out of a burning building, so it’s essential to be alerted to a fire as quickly as possible.
“Having a working smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector in your home can mean the difference between life and death,” Dr. Jeschke says.
Test your equipment regularly, and replace the batteries when necessary. Don’t forget that smoke detectors have an expiry date listed on the back. They need to be replaced every ten years.
2) Don’t use dangerous equipment, like blowtorches, inside.
The weather this winter has been downright frigid, which can cause frozen pipes, furnace breakdowns and other issues around the house. Dr. Jeschke’s advice? Call in the experts.
“You should not be doing things like taking a blowtorch to a frozen pipe. You don’t know for sure whether there’s water in that pipe, or if it’s actually a fuel line that could heat up and explode,” he says.
Running generators inside is also a big no-no. You can’t see, taste or smell carbon monoxide, which is why you should be checking your carbon monoxide detector to make sure it’s working.
3) Layer up — frostbite is a burn, too.
If you know you’ll be outside for an extended period of time, dress for the weather. The feeling of pins and needles, lack of feeling in a certain area, or skin that is hard and pale may mean you’ve developed frostbite.
“Frostbite is no joke. The effect it has on the skin is similar to a burn, so people with severe frostbite are treated here in the burn centre. If your skin turns black and then blisters, you’re in trouble. Get medical attention immediately,” says Dr. Jeschke.
Take extra care when fuelling up your car in the winter, and wear gloves when doing so. “Getting gasoline on your hands when it’s very cold out will cause your skin to freeze within seconds,” he says.
4) Use common sense.
Dr. Jeschke says many of the injuries they see in the burn centre are the result of poor judgment. Simple activities like smoking and cooking can become deadly if a person falls asleep. Dropping a lit cigarette onto the carpet or leaving a stove unattended can ignite a fire very quickly.
“Maybe someone’s decision-making ability was impaired by drugs or alcohol, or they didn’t stop to think about the potentially dangerous consequences of a situation,” he says. “Don’t be that person.”
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