Everyone has their role to play when it comes to fire safety

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MANITOULIN – Fire Prevention Week has just concluded across North America and many firefighter teams have been circulating around Manitoulin Island to show children how they can help in fire prevention while following this year’s theme, ‘Not every hero wears a cape. Plan and practice your escape.’

An ounce of fire prevention can go quite a distance in keeping one’s home and family safe should a fire break out at their house.

“You’ve got to know how to get out, and make sure your alarms are working,” said Central Manitoulin fire chief John Reid, who described the impact of having a plan as “huge.”

Assiginack fire chief Dwayne Elliott agreed.

“It is quite important because during an emergency is not the time to start preparing your escape plan. It’s important to have those in place ahead of time and have them well-practiced so when something bad does happen, and you have a safe meeting place, it helps the escape go a lot smoother,” said Mr. Elliott.

Mr. Elliott said a fire prevention officer visited students at Assiginack Public School last week and distributed useful tips and information to children who would be able to apply what they are learning to help keep their families safe. There are several steps that all families can take to increase their safety at home.

To start, it is important to assess the needs of everyone in the house and what assistance they may need to evacuate. Once that is completed, the next step is to ensure there are working smoke alarms on every level of the home and outside all sleeping areas. All people in the house should be familiar with the sound of the smoke detector so they know when it is time to escape.

Everyone must know what to do when they hear a smoke alarm. Someone in the house should be designated as the person to help anyone in need of assistance and all occupants should know where the safe meeting space is outside.

It is very useful to make a plan of all possible emergency exits, including both doors and windows, and make sure they can be opened in a crisis.

The whole plan should be practiced at least twice per year and everyone involved should take part in the exercise. If someone discovers a part of the plan that does not work well, it is important to make changes and update the escape plan so that it is functional.

“Lots of the kids we talk to at fall fairs and community events do lead us to believe that they do have a plan in place,” said Mr. Elliott.

It is important to understand how quickly fire spreads. Sleeping with closed doors can offer precious extra time to make a clean exit before flames or smoke can fill a room.

“Every second counts when you need to get out of the house,” said Mr. Elliott.

He added that there are things people of all ages can do right now to improve their safety.

“I’d like to see the kids check their smoke alarms and make sure their batteries get changed. If we can get the kids taking part, hopefully their parents will see how important it is, too,” said Mr. Elliott.

The Ontario Municipal Fire Prevention Officers Association has resources for Ontario homes and businesses to help improve their safety. Visit its pages on Facebook or Twitter for more details, or find safety information on its website at omfpoa.com/helpful-forms-and-tips.