Surrey, BC – City of Surrey Fire Chief Len Garis wishes to remind residents of the simple, life-saving habit of changing and testing the batteries in smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. With clocks springing forward on Sunday, March 8th it’s a simple and effective reminder to make this potentially lifesaving check.
“While timekeeping is a vital part of our lives and we all keep our clocks working to stay on track, it’s surprising that many people forget to ensure the safety of themselves and their loved ones by keeping their smoke alarm in the same working order,” said Chief Len Garis. “We urge all Surrey residents to test their smoke alarms when daylight savings time starts this Sunday, and change worn devices and batteries right away.”
Every home in British Columbia is required to have a working smoke alarm. It’s the law! As well, smoke alarms are also required to be replaced every 10 years to ensure they are operational.
In Surrey, fire services have expanded their internationally-recognized HomeSafe program, by increasing awareness and providing free smoke alarm installations. As well as continually monitoring outcomes and treating the highest risk homes and vulnerable populations such as seniors and low-income families, Surrey Firefighters have visited nearly 40,000 homes and engaged residents in food bank and tax payment line-ups on the importance of a working smoke alarm.
Their persistence and persuasion have produced these impressive results: Fifty-three per cent (53%) of residential fires in 2014 were reported to have a working smoke alarm, compared to only 28.5 per cent in 2010. This is a remarkable 86% improvement. Surrey Firefighter’s president Mike McNamara believes strongly in reaching out to the community, “Surrey Firefighters believe in the importance of engaging vulnerable sectors of the population with progressive initiatives such as this. The results speak for themselves.”
Quick tips on testing smoke alarms:
- Smoke alarms should be maintained according to manufacturer’s instructions.
- Test smoke alarms at least once a month using the test button.
- Make sure everyone in the home understands the sound of the smoke alarm and knows how to respond.
- Follow manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning to keep smoke alarms working well. The instructions are included in the package or can be found on the internet.
- Smoke alarms with non-replaceable 10-year batteries are designed to remain effective for up to 10 years. If the alarm chirps, warning that the battery is low, replace the entire smoke alarm right away.
- Smoke alarms with any other type of battery need a new battery at least once a year. If that alarm chirps, warning the battery is low, replace the battery right away.
- When replacing a battery, follow manufacturer’s list of batteries on the back of the alarm or manufacturer’s instructions. Manufacturer’s instructions are specific to the batteries (brand and model) that must be used. The smoke alarm may not work properly if a different kind of battery is used.
Smoke alarms work but not forever
Your smoke alarm has the power to save your life. Or does it? If you haven’t tested your smoke alarm lately, it may not be working. We believe that’s a risk you – and your family – can’t afford to take. Working smoke alarms give us earlier warning of a fire, allowing extra time to escape safely and call 9-1-1. But they can’t do their job if we haven’t done ours, that is: monthly testing to make sure they’re working.
A study published by the University of the Fraser Valley (UFV) in 2012 identified in approximately 50,000 fires in BC, Alberta and Ontario from 2006 to 2011, involving 663 deaths, which revealed that the death rate per 1,000 fires was 74 per cent higher in cases where there wasn’t a working smoke alarm.
“The most vulnerable sectors in our population are at a higher rate of being injured or dying in a fire,” said Surrey Fire Chief Len Garis. He noted that “seniors have been hit the hardest with twice as many fire related deaths compared with any other age group. Seniors have accounted for 32 per cent of the fire deaths, but only represent 15 per cent of the population.” Risks are also elevated for households with at least one young child or persons with a disability.
The power of working smoke alarms
Over the past several years, BC Fire Departments have implemented an aggressive smoke alarm movement across the province. While there is room for improvement, the preliminary results show that in residential fires the percentage of working smoke alarms have improved year-over-year.
From 2010 to 2014, there has been an 10.9 percentage point increase in the presence of functioning smoke alarms at residential fires in BC(from 30.2% of fires in 2010 to 41.1% of fires in 2014). Across this period of time the death rate was 3.3 per 1,000 fires in the presence of a working smoke alarm and 14.8 per 1,000 fires without a working smoke alarm (meaning that the death rate was 78% lower when a fire occurred in the presence of a working alarm). Fire-related deaths in BC have declined by 51.5% during this time (from 33 in 2010 to 16 in 2014) owing, in large part, to the presence of working smoke alarms. Fire-related mortality and injuries are preventable. Smoke alarms have been demonstrated to save lives, reduce fire-related injury, reduce the spread of fires, and reduce the damage of fires.
To request a free HomeSafe Inspection or Smoke Alarm installation visit:
www.surrey.ca/freesmokealarm or call 604.543.6780 for details.