Prepare for the worst case with fires

[attach]7517[/attach]Whether you live in a retirement residence or in your own home, there are many precautions to take to ensure home and self safety.

Fire safety is a top priority in the winter months.

There are many things one can do to prevent serious harm.

Retirement homes across the province are taking action to prevent a disaster like the January fire at a retirement residence in L’Isle Verte, Que. that claimed as many as 32 lives.

Ontario’s fire code has been adjusted, making it mandatory to have water sprinklers installed in Ontario retirement homes by 2019.

While licensed retirement homes and private care facilities have five years to install automated sprinkler systems, publicly owned nursing homes have until 2025. City council in their February meeting planned to ask Premier Kathleen Wynne to expedite the process, and to introduce low-interest loans to encourage faster retrofits.

Sprinklers are already in place at Chartwell’s Teddington Park residence, and emergency lighting will be installed shortly, says Sharon Henderson, vice president of marketing for the 4 Teddington Park Ave. retirement home.

“This is getting people prepared and aware,” Henderson said. “The most important thing is the awareness — that people know what the evacuation procedure is and they know what to do in an emergency and that they’re trained on a regular basis.”

Chartwell, which also has a Leaside residence at 921 Millwood Rd., has annual fire safety plans in place, and constantly revisits strategies on evacuation procedures and drills as needs arise, Henderson said.

To prepare for weather disasters and outages to utilities, a rapport with local emergency services has been established, which helps with organizing emergency efforts.

“[They] tell us, ‘You’ve lost power [and] this is how we’re going to help you’,’’ Henderson explained. “We would move to a safe

She says pre-designated safe zones in the community — whether it’s a hotel of church, or a sister residence — are already in place.

For Carol Heller, speaking on behalf of fire safety company Kidde Canada, fire safety for homeowners begins with a properly functioning smoke alarm.

Alarms, including battery and component replacement, should be updated every 10 years.

“The sensor in the smoke alarm deteriorates, so it may look like your alarm is working because you’re changing the batteries and so on,” said Heller, who noted that deteriorating sensors take longer to activate.

Kidde Canada also provides a wall-mounted alarm that is easier to access, compared to some alarms that are attached to the ceiling.

“The battery in a lot of the alarms is located at the front of the unit, so you don’t have to take it off the ceiling,” Heller mentioned.

Organizing escape plans and having emergency kits are among the precautions homeowners should take to be prepared for case of possible fire and heightened carbon monoxide levels, Heller said.

“A meeting place, whether it’s for older people or for kids, [and] we always say, ‘Make sure you know what an alarm sounds like,’” Heller said. “That’s why we tell people you should test the alarm, so you get used to the noise.”

Helpful tips

• Clear at least a metre of space around space heaters
• If you use a fireplace, use a small amount of dry, seasoned wood to keep flames under control
• Keep a working fire extinguisher in the kitchen
• When using candles, keep them in sturdy holders and on a level surface
• Consult a local electrician, plumber, or heating specialist about any shortages or other in-house problems

Source: Canada Safety Council

What changed in the fire code?

Adjustments to Section 150/13 of the Fire Prevention and Protection Act, 1997 were filed in May and went into effect on Jan. 1.

Changes include:
• Mandatory automatic sprinklers by 2019
• Adjusted fire drill requirements, including a drill scenario with a home’s minimum staffing levels
• New qualification requirements for facility staff responsible for implementing fire safety plans

Source: Ontario Fire Marshal’s Office