Despite the fact that fewer fire losses are reported in Canada, on average, eight Canadians die from fire every week.
Most of these fires are preventable and caused by careless behaviour. It is the reason why Fire Prevention Week is recognized every October, and this year it is set for Oct. 7 to 13.
“This year’s theme underscores the importance of making people aware of the simple preventative measures they can take to prevent disaster from occurring to them,” said Penticton Fire Chief Wayne Williams.
The message the fire department is conveying this year is that everyone should know two ways out of every room in their home in case there is a fire. Like a rabbit that has two ways out of their holes, the fire department has adopted the slogan be rabbit ready.
Having two potential exits is just as crucial as practising a home fire escape plan, said operations assistant at the Penticton Fire Department Jody Fotherby.
“If the smoke alarm goes and you have no plan, who is going to look after your kids or your little brother or sister? What if you can’t get through the door? How do you get out the window? People often don’t practise those types of things, so if the time comes and there is a fire in your home nobody knows what to do,” said Fotherby.
She said it takes less than four minutes for your house to burn down. Fotherby added it also takes about 90 seconds before the smoke alarm activates when there is a fire.
“You have to be pretty organized. You are left with three minutes, maybe, to get your act together. This is compounded if you have elderly people in the home, children or a host of things that could make your escape plan slow,” said Fotherby. “Elementary kids practise this every month so they know exactly what to do at the school if there is a fire. In your residence, very rarely do people seem to have a plan. They don’t practise it like they would at the school. When was the last time you have practised your plan at home? It is something so simple and takes a matter of minutes to practice.”
During Fire Prevention Week, all of the elementary schools in Penticton will be treated to a special presentation from drama students from Penticton Secondary School in conjunction with the Penticton Fire Department. Fotherby said the students will be hosting a game show, similar to The Price Is Right.
“We get to pick contestants from the school population and the actors will ask them questions and we have prizes that we have put together,” said Fotherby.
Radio ads will feature Penticton firefighters alerting the public to the importance of smoke alarms. The fire department will also be at the Seniors Expo Oct. 12 and 13 to remind people why smoke alarms are part of an important home fire escape plan. Fotherby said working smoke alarms cut the risk of dying in reported home fires in half. She reminds the public that smoke alarms should be tested at least once a month using the test button.
The Fire Chief For A Day contest also runs next week for Penticton students. Those who work on their home fire escape plan will be entered for a chance to win Fire Chief For A Day and a pizza party for their classroom. On Oct. 18, the fire department will host an open house where the winners will be presented with a special certificate.