5 steps to avoiding a home fire

With the Thanksgiving holiday less than a week away, many Canadians are making preparations for the annual feast. Though most of these celebrations go off without a hitch, kitchen fires are among the most common types of fire in the home, often occurring right around this time of year.

It's with this in mind that safety officials are urging homeowners to participate in Fire Prevention Week.

The Insurance Bureau of Canada, Ontario Office of the Fire Marshal and several other organizations recognize Fire Prevention Week, which takes place annually between Oct. 5 and 11. Each year, safety officials promote multiple aspects of how to prevent fires in the home, as well as what to do should one develop. For example, the Office of the Fire Marshal and Emergency Management has put together a new video called "Test Yours Today," which stresses the importance of regularly testing smoke alarms as well as those that detect carbon monoxide.

What families do to reduce the risk of a home fire shouldn't stop there, though. Amanda Dean, vice president of the Atlantic division of IBC, indicated that fire safety is a multi-faceted process.

"There are a number of important steps you should take to help protect your family from fire," said Dean. "This Fire Prevention Week we encourage families across Atlantic Canada to review each of IBC's top-10 tips for preventing fires and saving lives."

The following tips are some of the ways in which Canadians can keep their loved ones safe from harm:

1. Check smoke detector regularly. In order to pass inspection, every home has to have a fire or smoke alarm. Because of this, they can often go unnoticed because they've always been a part of the residence. However, when left unchecked, these detectors can fall into disrepair, preventing homeowners from being warned of smoke when it's present. IBC recommended checking the batteries when changing the clocks in November and April. There should be a "test" button on the device that will cause the alarm to make a noise when it's engaged.

2. Clean chimney flues. In the summer, the chimney flue may not get much attention, seeing as how the fireplace isn't needed given the season's warmth. Over time, however, chimney flues develop creosote, which builds up on the walls. If this isn't cleaned, it could lead to a fire due to a blockage. Homeowners may want to hire a chimney sweeper to take care of this issue properly.

3. Use bulbs with appropriate wattage. Perhaps in an attempt to make a room brighter than it normally is, you may occasionally use light bulbs with a substantial amount of wattage. Though this may not be a problem for some lamps, the power they generate may be too much for some fixtures. Before installing one, ensure that the wattage is at or less than the maximum allowed, which should be listed on the fixture itself. Although new laws are already in place banning the sale of 75- and 100-watt incandescent bulbs, the bulbs that will replace them – compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) – come as high as 200 watts, and are still hot to the touch. So keep this in mind when installing your new bulbs. 

4. Be attentive when cooking. The vast majority of Canadians will spend their Thanksgiving holiday at their own home or someone else's. Throughout the holiday season and during the rest of the year, always stay in the kitchen when the stove's burners are on and being used. Also, be careful not to splatter hot oil when deep-frying, as this could lead to a fire.

5. Keep grills and barbecues away from house. It ought to go without saying, but it's important to never use hibachis and grills on a home's porch or near to its structure. The heat and flames that generate from outdoor cooking vessels can be intense, so they should always be several feet away from a residence when in use.

Fire Prevention Canada has some other safety tips to be aware of to prevent fires from happening in the home.

Your safety is our concern too. Contact your nearest mutual!