British Columbians urged to reduce fire risks at home

PEOPLE following the provincial health officer’s advice to stay home to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 are encouraged to take action now to prevent house fires and save lives.

The Office of the Fire Commissioner has seen an increase in reported fire-related fatalities since January 1. Between January 1 and April 30, 2020, there were 15 fire-related fatalities in British Columbia. Over the same period last year, there were five fire-related fatalities.

“My thoughts go out to the families and communities impacted by these tragic deaths,” said Jennifer Rice, Parliamentary Secretary for Emergency Preparedness. “We all have a role to play in keeping each other safe. This week is Emergency Prepardness Week, and as people remain close to home during COVID-19, it’s an opportunity to test our smoke alarms and practise our home fire escape plans. It could save a life.”

“It’s up to each of us to make sure these types of tragedies do not happen,” said Brian Godlonton, Fire Commissioner. “In a typical home fire, you may have as little as one to two minutes to get out safely from the time the smoke alarm sounds. There are simple things that we can do to prevent a fire from happening and be prepared to react if a fire starts.”

Here are some tips to help keep yourself, your family and your loved ones safe at home:

Reduce fire risks

* Unattended cooking is a leading cause of home fires. Always stay in the kitchen when cooking.

* Always extinguish candles before leaving the room.

* Encourage smokers to smoke outside the home and outside the garage. Thoroughly extinguish all smoking materials in water or sand.

* Avoid overloading electrical outlets.

Make sure smoke alarms work

* Test smoke alarms monthly by pressing the test button. Replace batteries according to manufacturer’s instructions.

* Only working smoke alarms can give you the early warning needed to safely escape a fire in your home.

Make and practise a home fire escape plan

* Make your home escape plan.

* Make sure everyone knows two ways out of each room, if possible.

* All exits must be unobstructed and easy to use.

* Determine who will be responsible for helping young children, older adults and anyone who needs assistance to escape.

* Choose a meeting place outside, such as a tree or a lamp post, where everyone can be accounted for.

* Call 911 or a local emergency number from outside the home, from a cellphone or a neighbour’s home.

* Once out, stay out. Never re-enter a burning building.

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