Fire Prevention Week 2021 is underway, and the theme for this year is “Learn the Sounds of Fire Safety."
The province of Ontario is issuing a “Get Loud” challenge, which encourages Ontarians to recognize the different sounds made between smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, and identify if new batteries are needed or if the alarms need to be replaced.
“A lot of people can’t distinguish when they make the call to say whether it’s a carbon monoxide alarm or whether it’s a smoke alarm, so we’re asking them to learn the sounds and to get loud, and that means to test them,” said Paul Ryan, fire chief for the Midland and Penetanguishene fire departments.
Rapid beeps in succession are an alarm condition, while intermittent beeps are related to the alarm device itself.
“If a smoke alarm battery is going low then it will do three beeps and then stop,” said Ryan, “and a carbon monoxide alarm will do four beeps and stop.”
Denis Maurice, division chief of fire prevention for Tiny Township, noted the importance of understanding the alarm sounds inside the home.
“We have a very large population of people that have no idea what sounds the alarms make,” said Maurice. “They haven’t read their instructions and they don’t realize that with today’s new alarms, they have a message for you, whether it’s an actual alarm or if it’s something that needs to be addressed, either a low battery or end of life.”
Recognizing the alarm sounds is not only important to ensuring the lives of everyone inside the home, but it also holds more practical benefits through the knowledge of what false alarms sound like.
“The majority of the alarm calls that we get, they’re false,” Maurice explained, “and it’s costly. When we have to send a crew of firefighters out to an alarm activation because of a dead battery, that’s very expensive for the taxpayers."
And in a volunteer department like Tiny's that often becomes a burden on the firefighter’s employer as well, according to Maurice.
"We’re fortunate that a lot of our firefighters are employed by companies that allow them to leave, otherwise we’d be in trouble," he said. “Understanding what your alarm is telling you is important if it can mitigate situations where it prevents us from responding to a false activation or a nuisance alarm, then it saves everybody a bit of money; saves the employer, saves the taxpayer.
"It could also save you a little bit of embarrassment having the fire department showing up at your door with lights and sirens.”
By law, working smoke alarms are required on every level of a home and outside the sleeping areas. Working carbon monoxide alarms are also required adjacent to each sleeping area of the home if there is a fuel-burning appliance, fireplace or attached garage.
Fire Prevention Week is held annually during the week of October 9 in commemoration of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 which resulted in over 250 lives lost while leaving 100,000 homeless, destroying more than 17,000 structures and burning over 2,000 acres of land.
Both Ryan and Maurice agree that the one thing more important than all else is to have an escape plan known and ready in case a fire occurs.
Added Ryan: “Because at three o’clock when the alarms go off and you’re disorientated, your family needs to know how to get out. And seconds save lives."
Derek Howard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, MidlandToday.ca