Every home needs one but there are a startling number that don’t.
Smoke alarms can save lives — and homes — if they are installed and working properly, according to a new province-wide campaign to get residential smoke alarms up and running and installed in every B.C. home.
The campaign, researched by Surrey Fire Services, has now descended into the Greater Trail region and is showing that almost 70 per cent of houses that caught fire in B.C. did not have a functioning smoke alarm.
The research predicts that working smoke alarms could reduce annual fire deaths by as much as 32 per cent. But it’s not enough to have a smoke alarm, said regional fire chief Terry Martin, you need to ensure the one you have is working.
“The old adage is you check your smoke alarms when you change your clocks,” during daylight savings time, he said. “But it would be better to check it on a monthly basis, it’s only in your best interest.”
The research findings also indicate the province’s most vulnerable populations, such as children and the elderly, face the highest risk of dying in a residential fire.
According to a University of the Fraser Valley study, there is a greater risk of fatality from residential structure fires for households with young children, older adults or people with disabilities; rental units; and households in low-income areas, in rural communities and on First Nations reserves.
The smoke alarm campaign — launched recently by B.C. Minister of Justice and Attorney General Shirley Bond and the president of the Fire Chiefs’ Association of BC, Surrey fire chief Len Garis — intends to reduce fire-related deaths and injuries through properly working smoke alarms.
“Smoke alarms are supposed to be changed out every 10 years to make sure they are working,” said regional deputy fire chief Dan Derby.
Data from the Office of the Fire Commissioner shows that in 11,000 residential fires in B.C. from 2006 to 2011, nearly 70 per cent of the fire scenes examined either had no smoke alarm or the smoke alarm was not working.
“This is a very poor report card on the state of functioning smoke alarms in our province and country,” said Garis. “We’ve tackled this issue before, but this time we’ll be looking for permanent, sustainable solutions.”
The UFV study extrapolates that 69 deaths across Canada could be prevented each year if all Canadian homes had working smoke alarms.
The Fire Chiefs’ Association of BC and the Office of the Fire Commissioner will lead a steering committee of stakeholders on the local, provincial and national level, with a focus on the Three E’s of Injury Prevention: education; environment; and enforcement.
Further details about the campaign will be publicized as it rolls out during 2012. Information about the campaign will be available at: www.fcabc.ca.