Most homeowners know the basics about how to prevent house fires: never leave a candle or fire unattended, never leave a stove unattended when cooking, never smoke in bed and never let kids play with matches or lighters. Below are a few other tips on fire prevention and safety in the home.
Smoke and carbon monoxide alarms
- Install up-to-date smoke and carbon monoxide alarms that meet Underwriters Laboratories of Canada standards on every level of your home and outside bedrooms.
- Change batteries annually and test each device regularly.
- Remember: carbon monoxide alarms expire every five years, while smoke alarms expire every 10 years.
- Use interconnected smoke alarms – when one smoke alarm sounds, they all sound.
- Test all smoke alarms at least once a month. Press the test button to be sure the alarm is working.
- Use special alarms for those who are hard of hearing or deaf – these alarms have strobe lights and bed shakers.
Watch these fire safety videos to learn more:
- Use a heat-resistant surface to cool down hot cookware.
- Keep children and pets away from stovetops.
- Have a working fire extinguisher in the kitchen.
- Remove all items from the stovetop when cooking is done.
- Ensure a pot cover is nearby to smother flames in the event of a fire.
What to do in the event of a grease/oil fire
- Smother the flames by completely covering the pan or deep fryer with a large metal lid, cooking sheet or flat tray.
- Turn off the stove or deep fryer.
- Soothe any minor burns with cool water and seek medical attention if skin is blistered, charred or white.
- Remember to “stop, drop and roll” if clothes catch fire.
- Use water to extinguish a grease/oil fire – water makes the fire spread.
- Pick up the pan/pot – the flames can spread and burn.
Watch the Stay in the kitchen when cooking video to learn more.
To reduce fire and shock hazards, ensure all electrical systems are installed and maintained by a qualified electrician and the size of the system meets electrical needs. Any electrical incidents should be reported to the Electrical Safety Authority.
Fuses and breakers
- Ensure the correct size fuses are used.
- Do use the right type of extension cord for the device it is servicing.
- Do not use extension cords as permanent wiring.
- Do not run extension cords under rugs or floors.
Plugs and switches
- Ensure plugs and switches have proper covers.
- Ensure outdoor plugs and switches are designed for outdoor use.
- Ensure plugs and switches used near water sources each have a ground fault circuit interrupter.
- Ensure an electrician is called if these items spark or if it smells like something is burning.
Watch the Electrical fire safety at home video to learn more.
- Ensure washing machine hoses are checked regularly for wear and tear.
- Ensure dryer hoses are aluminum (not plastic) and checked regularly for lint build-up.
- Clean the lint screens each time a dryer is used.
- Ensure clothes stained with chemicals such as gasoline, cooking oils, cleaning agents or finishing oils/stains are washed more than once to remove the stains – line dry these items instead of using a dryer.
- Ensure cotton, fleece, terry cloth or velour fabric is softened with a dryer sheet instead of liquid fabric softener – which accelerates the burning rate of all these fabrics.
Watch the Laundry room fire safety video to learn more.
To ensure your barbecue is functioning safely, be sure to take the following steps at least once a year:
- Ensure all burner ports are free of rust, dirt or cobwebs. Use a pipe cleaner or wire to ensure they are clear of any obstructions.
- Ensure that the hose and cylinder connections are in good condition. Never use a match or lighter to check for leaks. Brush a mixture of 50 per cent soap and 50 per cent water onto all hoses and connections and look for bubbles. Replace, repair or tighten any connections until no bubbles are present.
- Clean out grease traps and keep grill areas free of grease.
- Make sure your barbecue is placed in a safe area away from combustibles and far enough away from buildings and fences. Radiant heat from a barbecue can damage siding.
Lighting a barbecue
- Always light the barbecue with the lid open. Open the valve at the cylinder, turn the barbecue on at the grill controls and then light the burner. If your barbecue is not equipped with an igniter button, insert the flame from a long match or barbecue lighter through the side burner hole. Have the match lit before you turn on the gas at the grill controls.
- If the burner does not ignite, turn the gas off and wait five minutes. Keep the lid open, then try again.
- When using charcoal grills, only use charcoal briquettes designed specifically for that purpose and charcoal lighting fluids to ignite. Sprinkle briquettes with the lighter fluid and allow it to soak in – wait approximately 10 minutes. Never add fluid after igniting the barbecue.
- Never use gasoline to light a barbecue.
Fuel-burning appliances, chimneys, chimineas and outdoor fires
- Ensure the required permit to burn an open fire is obtained from the Fire Prevention division and the City’s Fire Burn By-Law 149-99 (PDF), 395-2002 and 72-2005 is followed – outdoor fireplaces or fire pits might not be allowed in certain areas. Note: chimineas and enclosed fires do not require a permit.
- Store combustible material and flammable liquids away from all fuel-burning appliances.
- Ensure all chimneys and vents are free from debris.
- Ensure the following safety tips are followed when operating an outdoor fireplace or chiminea unit:
- Maintain a minimum three metres (about 10 feet) clearance between the fireplace and combustible objects and surfaces to prevent ignition from radiant heat.
- Use appropriate insulating material between the unit and the wooden deck if the unit is being used on a wooden patio.
- Burn clean, dry firewood only.
- Limit the amount of firewood being burnt to ensure that the flames are confined to the unit and do not extend into the chimney.
- Keep the unit under constant supervision when in use.
- Keep a method of fire extinguishing nearby (e.g. fire extinguisher, pail of water, garden hose)
- Follow the manufacturer’s operating instructions.
- Check the unit regularly for cracks or other physical deterioration.
- Do not use the outdoor fireplace during high winds.
- Do not allow the smoke from the fireplace to affect the enjoyment of the natural environment by neighbours.
Fire tips for smokers
- Be sure to extinguish every cigarette or cigar fully – dispose of cigarettes in a proper ashtray that won’t tip or burn.
- Be extra cautious with smoking when drinking alcohol or taking medication.
- Never empty contents of an ashtray into garbage bins – this can cause a fire. Place a drop of water in the ashtray, then leave it to cool down fully.
- Never put cigarettes out in potted plants – fertilizer found in soil can catch fire. Make sure potted plants are watered regularly and planted in clay pots to avoid fires.
- Never smoke around combustible materials.
- Never smoke in bed – dozing off and setting the bed on fire is a possibility.
Watch the Prevent smoking fires video to learn more.
Fire Safety Videos
Watch these educational videos on fire safety:
- Make sure you have an escape plan
- Learn how to properly use a fire extinguisher
- Make firework safety a priority