Maintaining a safe environment is always everyone’s first priority. However, there are very simple
initiatives we can take as family members in a household, or co-workers in an office to ensure that we are always doing our best to maintain a safe environment.
1. Know your evacuation plan and meeting spot in case of a fire or life safety emergency.
Residential areas usually have landmarks around the home that each family can designate as a safe meeting spot. Make family members (children and guests inclusive) aware of this designated meeting spot. Rehearse your evacuation plan while being mindful of alternate routes in case one exit is blocked. Time your evacuation and see if everyone in the household can get to the designated area in under 60 seconds. Prolonged exposure to the carbon monoxide created by a fire can be fatal.
Residential buildings (condominiums and apartments) will always have a fire department-approved fire safety plan. Be sure that each tenant is aware of their evacuation route based on the floor and suite in which they’re residing. If you are a tenant and would like to know where to find this information, contact your property manager and they will provide the relevant information.
2. Keep a household fire extinguisher stored near cooking areas and/or garages.
Fires in a residential setting can be caused by almost anything. There are flammable materials all over our homes and even on our person. Whether you’re in the kitchen cooking, lighting a candle to relax for the evening. powering up holiday lights, or working with tools in your garage, the possibility of a fire hazard is always present. As such, we recommend keeping a household fire extinguisher near any cooking areas or garages. Multi-purpose (ABC) fire extinguishers can be found at your local home improvement stores in sizes upwards of 2 lbs., from $25+. Most extinguishers come with a mounting bracket as well.
3. Never use your barbecue in the garage during the winter, or at any time.
We know, it sounds like a great idea. Enjoying the taste of a crisp-cooked barbecue meal in the chilly of months of winter sounds so comforting, but there are significant risks in exchange. Garages are places where there are generally more flammable and explosive materials stored; automotive fluids, aerosol cans, and wood just to name a few. For those who park cars in their garage, we know that the fumes which come out of the exhaust pipes contain carbon monoxide; an extremely flammable gas.
Barbecues operate on two primary functions: a flow of propane/ or natural gas ignited by a spark. Creating a spark in an area which is generally not ventilated, containing a lot of flammable materials should raise a number of red flags. While the craving for a summer meal only intensifies during the winter, we recommend using a stove top grill in your kitchen or purchasing a countertop grill to satisfy your cravings!.
4. Clean up any oil or gas spills in garages.
Long story short, accidents happen. Spill absorbent materials are sold at your local home improvement stores. If you don’t have any commercially sold spill absorbents, you can always use rags to soak up as much of the spilled fluids as possible. If you’re an avid Do-It-Yourselfer mastering the art of woodwork, collect and save the sawdust as it also acts as an effective spill absorbent. Removing the presence of any flammable or explosive materials is always the first step to fire prevention.
What about cooking oil spills in the kitchen?
Great question! You’re going to want to clean these spills with the same amount of effort. Use any absorbent paper towels or rags to remove large amounts of the oil, then be sure to use a sponge or mop with soap to get rid of any remaining oil residue on your kitchen counter or floors.
5. Maintain a clean and clutter-free environment in general, but especially around furnaces, vents and doorways.
You’re probably wondering, what does clutter have to do with fire safety? The fact of the matter is, the less there is in an area, the less there is to catch fire in general. Fires spread in lateral and vertical directions by igniting materials adjacent to itself. So why should we keep clutter away from furnaces? Isn’t it a great area in the basement to store things around? Not really. For one, your HVAC technician will probably request you to keep the area clear so that they can easily service your furnace. Secondly, the furnace is a contained fire itself so it would be best to keep anything and everything away from it. A Whitby home was destroyed by a furnace fire in 2013. The furnace was also serviced three days before the fire occurred. Read more here.
Along with keeping areas surrounding vents clear, be sure to clean the area of any dust or lint. This is especially crucial in the laundry room. According to the NFPA, failure to clean the washer and dryer accounted for 32% of home fires in 2010 in the U.S. We suggest vacuuming over and inside your floor vent covers, as well as regularly emptying the dryer lint reservoir. It is also good practice to move the washer and dryer every two months to remove any dust and lint that collects behind the large appliances.The same can be done behind refrigerators and stoves in the kitchen. Tyler Johnson, of Dryer Vent Wizard, told Global News in 2014 that on average, there is a dryer fire in Ontario every two days. For more information and tips on preventing dryer fires, visit the full story here.
Keeping doorways clear of any clutter will not only make for a safer environment walking around everyday, but will not hinder a safe evacuation in case of emergency. Areas that are often neglected are doors that are on the side of homes, doors leading to garages, or walk-out basements.
There is an endless list of things you can do to create an environment conducive of greater and life safety. Ever wondering whether something in your home is safe or not? We suggest listening to your conscience. If you find yourself looking at an area in your home and your first reaction is, “this probably isn’t safe,” it most likely isn’t.