The first week of October, October 3rd to 9th is Fire Prevention Week. This year’s campaign is “Learn the Sounds of Fire Safety”. Here we’ll discuss what different alarms sound like and what to do should an alarm go off. Even if fire prevention is something you were taught a long time ago, at Cayuga Mutual, we want everyone to be as safe as possible, so it doesn’t hurt to have a refresher. We’ll also offer some tips on how to create a fire escape plan for your family to ensure you’re prepared in the event of a fire. 

Fire Prevention – It’s More Than Having a Working Fire Extinguisher in Your Home!  

Did you know that it is the law to have a working fire alarm on every story of your home or business and outside all sleeping areas? A continued set of three, loud beeps – beep, beep, beep – means smoke or fire. Get out, stay out, and call 9-1-1! Do not go back inside for anyone or anything. If you are hearing a single chirp every 30 or 60 seconds, that means the battery in your smoke alarm is low and must be replaced. If the chirping sounds continue after you have replaced the battery, then it means your alarm is at the end of its life and must be replaced. Did you know that all smoke alarms must be replaced every ten years? They even have an expiration date. Here are some general guidelines on the proper maintenance of your home’s smoke alarms – if you think your alarms are needing a replacement, it’s best to do it BEFORE you may need them!  

Carbon Monoxide Detectors – A Mandatory Alarm for Every Home. 

Carbon Monoxide (CO) is known as the silent killer – as it is odorless, colourless, tasteless, and non-irritating. Potential sources of CO are a blocked chimney, a furnace, an attached garage, a range hood, clothes dryer, and a water heater, just to name a few. Many Canadians die every year from carbon monoxide poisoning in their own homes, most of them while sleeping, so it is mandatory that your carbon monoxide detector is in working order. Should you hear four loud, continuous beeps – beep, beep, beep, beep – then CO is present in your home. Go outside, stay outside and call 9-1-1. Much like a smoke alarm, a single chirp every 30 to 60 seconds means the battery is low and must be replaced.  If the battery has been replaced and the chirping continues, then the unit is at the end of its life and must be replaced. CO alarms also have an ‘end of life’ sound that varies by manufacturer, but it still means that the unit needs to be replaced. 

Fire Alarms for the Hearing Impaired 

If someone in your home suffers from hearing loss – or you have hearing-impaired family members who live alone – then it is vital that the smoke and carbon monoxide alarms meet the needs of someone with sensory or physical disabilities. There are alert devices for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. These devices have strobe lights that flash when the smoke alarm sounds and others are designed to shake the bed or pillow. These products can be found online and in stores that sell smoke and CO alarms but choose one that has been listed by a qualified testing laboratory. Other safety tips for the elderly or hearing impaired include: 

  • Install a bedside alert device that responds to the sounds of the smoke and CO alarms. The use of a low-frequency alarm can also wake a sleeping person with mild to severe hearing loss. 
  • Sleep with your mobility device, glasses, and phone close to your bed. 
  • Keep hallways lit with night lights and free from clutter to make sure everyone can get out safely. 

Making Your Home Fire Escape Plan 

A house fire can spread rapidly. Studies show that you and your family may only have two minutes to safely escape. Part of fire prevention is also having a fire escape plan should the untoward ever happen. Below are some tips to create a fire escape plan. Remember that this should involve every person living in the home – you can also make this fun for children by having them draw a floor plan and marking the escape routes. 

  • First, walk through your home and inspect all possible exits and escape routes. 
  • Mark two ways out of each room – this includes windows and doors. 
  • Also, mark the location of each smoke alarm. 
  • Ensure that all escape routes are clear, and doors and windows can open easily. 
  • Check if your street number is clearly visible from the road. If not, paint it on the curb or install house numbers to ensure that responding emergency personnel can find your home. 
  • Have everyone memorize the emergency phone number for the fire department. 
  • Assign one person to assist any infants, older adults, or family members with mobility limitations in the drill. Assign a backup person too in case the designee is not present when the emergency occurs. 
  • If your house has security bars on the windows or doors, be sure they can be easily removed from the inside. Installing emergency release devices is a good idea. 
  • Consider escape ladders near windows for any two (or more) story residence. 
  • Determine if children – or others – can readily waken to the sound of the smoke alarm. 
  • Practice your home fire escape plan – at least twice a year – making the drill as realistic as possible. Ensure it’s achievable in two minutes or less.

Lastly, never, ever go back inside a burning building. If someone is missing, inform the dispatcher and let the firefighters perform the rescue.

Home Insurance – Protecting you, even after a fire.  

Even after a fire, your homeowners’ coverage can protect you and your family. Homeowners’ coverage usually extends to your personal belongings, such as appliances, furniture, and clothing. Homeowners insurance typically helps protect personal belongings from specific risks, like a fire, and may help pay to repair or replace them. Cayuga Mutual is always happy to help review or discuss homeowner policies should you ever have any concerns or questions.