March 9, 2009

Emergency Preparedness: Fire Escape Plan

Anyone who has lived through a fire will tell you what a terrifying experience it is. Unfortunately, many people who experience fire never get a chance to tell their story to warn others of the dangers of fire.

Your fire department wants you to be prepared if a fire strikes your home. Please take a few minutes with your family to make a fire escape plan by following the nine simple instructions listed below.

  1. Draw a floor plan of your home. Use graph paper to draw a floor plan of your home. You should draw a floor plan for each floor of your home.
  2. Include all possible emergency exits. Draw in all walls, doors, windows and stairs. This will show you and your family all possible escape routes at a glance.
  3. Include important features that could help your escape. Doors and windows are escape exits from your home. Are there any other features that could help you get out safely? Can you climb out a window onto the roof of a porch or garage? Is there a tree or television antenna tower that can be safely reached from a window? These features can be extremely useful in an emergency, however you must make sure that all escape routes are practical and usable.
  4. Mark two escape routes from each room. There is a main exit from every room. This will be the exit to use if there is no apparent danger. If you are unable to use the main exit because of smoke or fire, you must have an alternate exit. The second exit is usually the window. Special consideration should be given to planning escape routes from the bedrooms as most fires occur at night when everyone is sleeping. This second exit must be practical and easy to use. Make sure that the occupant of that bedroom is able to use the second exit.
  5. Determine who may need help to escape. Decide in advance who will assist the very young, elderly or physically challenged members of your household. A few minutes of planning will save valuable seconds in a real emergency.
  6. Choose a place outside where everyone will meet. Choose a meeting place that everyone will remember. It is a good idea to choose a spot at the front of your home or close to your neighbor's house. Everyone must know to go directly to this meeting place so they can be accounted for. No one should go back into a burning building for any reason.
  7. Call the fire department from a neighbor's home. Once at the meeting place, someone can be sent to the neighbor's home to call the fire department. Include the neighbor's name and the fire department phone number on your plan. Mark the street address of your home on your fire escape plan. Always keep the Fire Department's number by your own phone in case a neighbor needs to call.
  8. Make sure everyone is familiar with the fire escape plan. Go over the entire plan with everyone. Discuss primary and secondary escape routes from each bedroom. Ensure that all children know the plan. Walk through the escape routes for each room with the entire family. Use this walk-through exercise to check your escape routes, making sure all exits are practical and easy to use. It is important that all windows will open and that no heavy furniture blocks any escape route. If escape ladders or ropes are to be used, make sure that they are accessible and that the appropriate individual is capable of using them.
  9. Practice your fire escape plan. After reviewing the floor plan with the members of your household, have an actual practice to ensure that everyone knows what to do. Practice your escape plan every six months. In a real fire, you must react without hesitation as smoke or flames may quickly block your escape routes. Your practice drills will ensure that everyone knows what to do when fire strikes.

March 8, 2009

Emergency Preparedness: Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Carbon Monoxide (CO) is a deadly, colourless and odourless gas. It is almost the same density of air, not heavier or lighter, so it mixes freely with it. Because you can't see, taste or smell it, carbon monoxide can kill you before you know it's present. CO is breathed in and bonds with the hemoglobin in your blood, displacing the oxygen you need. It will eventually displace enough to suffocate you from the inside out, resulting in death or brain injury.

Where does Carbon Monoxide come from?
It is a by-product of anything that burns. It comes from gas or oil fired appliances such as furnaces, dryers, stoves, water heaters, fireplaces and barbecues. It can also come from wood burning stoves and fireplaces and automobile engines.

What are the symptoms?
Symptoms can be mistaken for those accompanying the flu. There are several health-related clues that will alert you to the possibility that you are experiencing carbon monoxide poisoning. They are:

  • Persistent severe headaches.
  • Dizziness, blurred vision.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Confusion, disorientation, loss of muscle control.
  • Sleepiness, but never feeling rested.
  • Rapid heart beat, pulse, or a tightening of the chest.
  • Chest pain (angina) when exercising.
  • Fainting, unconsciousness.
  • Feeling sick and tired at home, but fine out of the house.

Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Look for a detector that is ULC listed to the Canadian Gas Association (CGA) standard #619. The ULC mark guarantees that the product has passed tests in the areas of performance, safety and accuracy.

Where do I put my Carbon Monoxide detector?
Near the sleeping area, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which recommends at least one detector per household. A second detector located near the home's heating source adds an extra measure of safety.

Emergency Preparedness: Smoke Alarms

Smoke alarms operate on one of two basic principles: ionization or photo electronic. For maximum protection, you should understand the advantages and disadvantages of both types.

Keep in mind only smoke alarms that are ULC approved should be used.

The ionization alarm uses a small amount of radioactive material to make the air within a sensing chamber conduct electricity. When very small smoke particles enter the sensing chamber, they interfere with the conduction of electricity, reducing the current and triggering the alarm. The particles to which the alarm responds are often smaller than can be seen with the human eye. Because flaming fires produce the greatest number of these invisible particles, ionization detectors respond slightly faster to open flaming fires than do photo electronic alarms.

Photo Electronic
The photoelectric alarm uses a small light source - either an incandescent bulb or light-emitting diode (LED) - that shines its light into a dark sensing chamber. The sensing chamber also contains an electrical, light-sensitive component known as a photocell. The light source and photocell are arranged so that light from the source does not normally strike the photocell. When smoke particles enter the sensing chamber of the photoelectric alarm, the light is reflected off the surface of the smoke particle, allowing it to strike the photocell and increase the voltage from the photocell. When the voltage reaches a predetermined level, the alarm activates.

Power Supply
Batteries or household current can power residential smoke alarm. Battery-operation detectors offer the advantage of easy installation - a screwdriver and a few minutes are all that are needed. Battery models are also independent of house power circuits and will operate during power failures. It is critical that only the specific battery recommended by the alarm manufacturer be used for replacement.

Smoke Alarm Location
A smoke alarm in every room will provide the fastest detection. 85% of all fire deaths and injuries occur in homes where there are no working smoke alarms. Remember, only a working smoke alarm can save your life! Most fatal fires occur at night when people are asleep. Often, victims never wake, due to carbon monoxide poisoning. A working smoke alarm will alert you, giving you precious time to escape.

Installing a smoke alarm on every level of the living unit provides good all-around protection. Because smoke rises, they should be placed on or near the ceiling, according to your users manual.

It's The Law!
Under the Ontario Fire Code, every home in Ontario is required to have working smoke alarms installed between sleeping and living areas. Homeowners must ensure that smoke alarms are installed on every level of a home and are required to maintain the smoke alarms in working order.

In rental accommodation, the obligation to install and maintain smoke alarms in operating condition falls to the landlord. Landlords must also provide smoke alarm maintenance information to the occupant of each unit.

It is an offence for any person to disable a smoke alarm. This requirement applies equally to homeowners, landlords and tenants.

Smoke alarms should be tested regularly. It is recommended that you vacuum out the dust and change the batteries every spring and fall when you adjust your clocks for daylight savings time.

Note: Smoke alarms do not last forever; they should be replaced after ten years. Replace smoke alarms that malfunction in any way.

March 7, 2009

Emergency Preparedness: Fire Extinguishers

Fire extinguishers are for use in small fires only. Never place yourself or others in jeopardy by attempting to extinguish a fire that is too large or if smoke presents a hazard to the operator. Never fight a fire if the fire is spreading beyond the spot where it started. If there is a fire, sound the alarm, and get everyone out. If possible, try to confine and contain the fire by closing doors leading to it. Call the Fire Service from a safe location. Buy only an extinguisher which has been approved by a nationally recognized testing laboratory such as U.L.C. Familiarize yourself with the location and operating instructions of the extinguishers at your disposal.

How to identify the proper fire extinguisher.

All ratings are shown on the faceplate. Some are marked with multiple ratings such as AB, BC and ABC. These extinguishers are capable of putting out more than one class of fire.

The ABC's of Fire Extinguishers:

  • Class A and B carry a numerical rating that indicates how large a fire an experienced person can safely put out with an extinguisher.
  • Class A extinguishes ordinary combustibles or fibrous material such as wood, paper, cloth, rubber and some plastics, etc.
  • Class B extinguishes flammable or combustible liquids, such as fuel, oil, gasoline, kerosene, paint, paint thinners, cooking grease, solvents and propane, etc.
  • Class C extinguishers have only a letter rating to indicate that the extinguishing agent will not conduct electrical currents. Class C extinguishers must also carry a Class A or B rating. Used for energized electrical equipment, such as appliances, switches, wiring, fuse boxes, electrical motors, power tools, panel boxes, etc.
  • Class D carries only a letter rating indicating their effectiveness on certain amounts of specific metals. Combustible metals such as magnesium, sodium, titanium and potassium burn at high temperatures and give off sufficient oxygen to support combustion. They may react violently with water or other chemicals and must be handled with care.
How to use a portable fire extinguisher.

Remember the acronym, P.A.S.S.

P Pull the pin.
A Aim extinguisher nozzle at the base of the flames.
S Squeeze trigger while holding the extinguisher upright.
S Sweep from side to side, covering the area of the fire with the extinguishing agent.
Remember: Should your path of escape be threatened, the extinguisher run out of agent, prove to be ineffective or if you are no longer able to safely fight the fire ... LEAVE THE AREA IMMEDIATELY!

Emergency Preparedness: 72-Hour Kit

Be ready for an emergency situation. Ease your mind by ensuring your home has these essential items in an Emergency Preparedness Kit.

  • Water: Store four and a half litres of water per person, per day. Two and a half litres for drinking and two litres for food preparation and sanitation. Ensure there is at least a three-day supply of water. Change stored water and food supply every six months so it stays fresh.
  • Food: Store a minimum three-day supply per person of non-perishable foods. Ready to eat canned meats, fruits and vegetables, canned juices, high energy foods like peanut butter and jelly with crackers and granola bars, vitamins, comfort/stress foods like chocolate and a loaf of bread frozen in the freezer to defrost for sandwiches. Remember: keep all items in air-tight plastic bags in an easy to carry container.
  • First Aid Kit: Assemble a kit including: sterile gauze pads and bandages in various sizes, surgical tape, scissors, tweezers, moistened towelettes, antiseptic, latex gloves, soap, petroleum jelly, non-prescription drugs such as aspirin, anti-diarrhea medication and antacid. Consult a physician or pharmacist for advice on storing prescription medication.
  • Tools and Supplies: Flashlight and extra batteries, battery operated radio, cash, traveler's cheques, change, non-electric can opener, utility knife, compass, signal flare, pencils, paper, paper plates and plasticware, rain ponchos and spare car and house keys. Always have a telephone that doesn't require electricity to function (most cordless and multi-feature phones will not work in a power outage) as well as a contact list of important numbers, updated regularly to include loved ones and medical professionals.
  • Sanitation: Toilet paper, soap, liquid detergent, clothing, bedding, plastic bucket with tight lid (this can serve as a waste receptacle if required), plastic garbage bags, zip-lock bags and disinfectant.
  • Special Needs: Be sure to include items for family members with special needs such as infants, elderly or disabled persons. Keep important family documents in waterproof, portable containers (e.g. birth certificates, recent photos, health card numbers, passports and insurance policies). Have an ample supply of pet food and litter on hand.

February 26, 2009

Burning By-Law

Small fires are permitted in most areas of Highlands East as long as the following rules are complied with:

  • There is no daytime burning permitted at anytime.
  • Fires must take place between two hours before sunset and two hours after sunrise.
  • Your fire can be no greater than one metres in diameter and only environmentally friendly materials may be burned.
  • The smoke from your fire cannot interfere with your neighbours or a roadway.
  • You must have sufficient tools and water available to put the fire out should the need arise.
  • You must be with your fire at all times.

January 29, 2009

Mission Statement

It shall be the goal of the department to utilize its resources to protect the lives and property of the inhabitants and the environment from the adverse effects of fires, sudden medical emergencies or exposure to dangerous conditions created by man or nature; first to the corporation, second to those municipalities requiring assistance through the authorized emergency fire service plan (mutual aid) and third to those municipalities which are provided fire protection services by the department under an authorized agreement.
In order to accomplish this goal the department was mandated to, "Provide a range of programs including but not limited to the following."

  1. Fire suppression response of all types.
  2. Emergency medical response, Level A.
  3. Response to vehicle accidents and extrication.
  4. Response to farm, home and industrial accidents.
  5. Response to public hazards.
  6. Response to hazardous material incidents and awareness levels.
  7. Provision of rescue services in fire and other than fire situations.
  8. Search and rescue services.
  9. Disaster and emergency planning.
  10. Fire cause determination and investigation.
  11. Fire prevention services and inspections.
  12. Public education services and programs.
  13. Shore based water rescue, Level 1.

All Firefighters are trained and certified in Advanced First Aid and C.P.R. The department has also become involved in providing defibrillator services to enhance our capabilities in serving our community. The Firefighters train three times each month to ensure all members are ready to respond to any type of call they may receive. The Firefighters provide Public Education and Fire Prevention to the community by visiting local schools and groups.