Tim Beckett, Fire Chief for the City of Mississauga warns that without a working smoke alarm in your home, the chances of escaping a fire are very low. With Fire Prevention Week taking place in October, Beckett launched an awareness campaign following a fatal fire Oct. 13 on Galloway Crescent.

Beckett and his team found there were three smoke alarms in the home, but none of them were working properly and unable to detect the fire. “Working smoke alarms are required by law in Ontario and we need to do a better job at ensuring the public knows their responsibility because these are senseless deaths,” he says.

Newer homes and furnishings pose an even greater risk in fires compared with legacy style homes and legacy furniture. “If you had a fire in your home 25 years ago, you would have about 20 minutes from the time the fire started to escape out of that house, so the chances of survivability were a lot greater when you had early notification,” says Beckett.

“Nowadays, with today’s types of furniture, today’s types of content, the way the buildings are constructed, we’re now looking at about three minutes to escape,” he says. Among these are plastics and processed materials which pose a much higher risk of flammability in the event of a fire.

“When you look at the differences from the past to now, 20 minutes would allow the fire department to get on scene and even if you couldn’t get out, we could conduct a rescue.” Another consequence of fire is a fine that can reach up to $50,000 for an individual and $100,000 for a corporation.

“It’s our fault that we haven’t taken a more stringent stance on people that aren’t following the law, so somebody would have a fire, somebody would die, the area would take up a collection, fundraise and feel sorry for the family, but at the same time that family failed to have a working smoke alarm that could have potentially saved their lives,” says Beckett.

The department now plans to be less tolerant around fully operating fire alarms, with Beckett citing the campaigns around wearing seatbelts and distracted driving as good precedents for them to build upon.

Fire safety tips on the proper installation of smoke alarm are that they should be:

  • Installed on each storey of the home
  • Outside each sleeping area
  • Battery operated in case of a power outage
  • Not older than 10 years
  • Installed on the ceiling (or high up on the wall)
  • Not too close to bathrooms (stem from shower), windows and ceiling fans (drafts will not pick up smoke quick enough) or the kitchen area (burnt toast would set it off, for example)
  • Tested on a monthly basis
  • Equipped with new batteries every year
  • Vacuumed out annually for any dust or spiders

Beckett also stressed the importance of having a home escape plan that includes a meeting place to ensure that everyone is out of the home and once out, to never go back inside.

For information, visit: www.mississauga.ca/portal/residents/fire

(Pictured: Mississauga Fire Chief, Tim Beckett)