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Fire safety information

Outdoor fire safety

Fire safety is not only a concern inside the home but it is also important outdoors. Learn tips that can be taken to prevent open air fires.

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Fire safety for holidays and special occasions

Even though the holidays are a time for relaxation we encourage everyone to take the necessary precautions to ensure maximum safety. Learn more about safety tips and other ways of minimizing fire incidents during the holidays.

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Fire prevention for your home or cottage

Educate yourself on safety tips and other preventative measures in order to make your family as safe as possible inside the household.

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Fire detection and escape planning

Learn more about what you can do when detecting fires and how to prepare yourself for an emergency.

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Get Alarmed! Carbon Monoxide Safety

Although the popularity of carbon monoxide (CO) alarms has been growing in recent years, it cannot be assumed that everyone is familiar with the hazards of carbon monoxide poisoning in the home. 

Often called the silent killer, carbon monoxide is an invisible, odourless, colorless gas created when fuels (such as gasoline, wood, coal, natural gas, propane, oil, and methane) burn incompletely. In the home, heating and cooking equipment that burn fuel are potential sources of carbon monoxide. Vehicles or generators running in an attached garage can also produce dangerous levels of carbon monoxide..

If you suspect carbon monoxide in your home, get out immediately and call the fire department.

Conditions that can create a CO hazard include:

  • Fuel-burning appliances, venting systems and chimneys that have not been serviced and maintained regularly by a qualified service technician.
  • A chimney blocked by a squirrel or bird’s nest, snow, ice or other debris.
  • Improper venting of a furnace or cracked furnace heat exchanger.
  • Exhaust fumes seeping into your home from a vehicle running in an attached garage.
  • Improper use of portable heaters.
  • Using fuel-burning appliances designed for outdoor use (barbecues, lanterns, chainsaws, lawnmowers, snow blowers) in an enclosed area such as a garage or workshop.
  • Combustion gases spilling into a home if too much air is being consumed by a fireplace or exhausted by kitchen/bathroom fans in a tightly sealed house.

CARBON MONOXIDE SAFETY TIPS.

  • Test CO alarms at least once a month; replace them according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • If the CO alarm sounds, immediately move to a fresh air location outdoors or by an open window or door. Make sure everyone inside the home is accounted for. Call for help from a safe location and stay there until emergency personnel arrive.
  • If you need to warm a vehicle, remove it from the garage immediately after starting it. Do not run a vehicle or other fuelled engine or motor indoors, even if garage doors are open. Make sure the exhaust pipe of a running vehicle is not covered with snow.
  • During and after a snowstorm, make sure vents for the dryer, furnace, stove, fireplace and any other fuel burning appliance are clear of snow/ice build-up.
  • A generator should be used in a well-ventilated location outdoors away from windows, doors and vent openings.
  • Annual inspection and cleaning of  furnaces, chimneys, fireplaces and all other fuel-burning equipment such as gas dryers and stoves
  • Never operate a gasoline-powered engine indoors or in closed space -  Only use outside
  • Never burn charcoal inside a home, garage, vehicle, or tent.
  • Never use gas appliances such as ranges, ovens, or clothes dryers to heat your home.
  • Never use portable fuel-burning camping equipment inside a home, garage, vehicle or tent unless it is specifically designed for use in an enclosed space and provides instructions for safe use in an enclosed area.
  • If the audible trouble signal sounds, check for low batteries. If the battery is low, replace it. If it still sounds, call the fire department.
  • CO alarms should be installed in a central location outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home and in other locations where required by applicable laws, codes or standards. For the best protection, interconnect all CO alarms throughout the home. When one sounds, they all sound.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for placement and mounting height.
  • Choose a CO alarm that has the label of a recognized testing laboratory and take the time to read the manufacturer’s instructions that are enclosed with each detector. 

SYMPTOMS OF CO POISONING

CO enters the body through breathing. CO poisoning can be confused with flu symptoms ( without the fever), food poisoning and other illnesses. Some symptoms include:

  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness

 High level CO poisoning results in progressively more severe symptoms, including

  • Mental confusion
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of muscular coordination
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Ultimately death

The dangers of CO exposure depend on a number of variables, including the victim's health and activity level. Infants, pregnant women, and people with physical conditions that limit their body's ability to use oxygen (i.e. emphysema, asthma, heart disease) can be more severely affected by lower concentrations of CO than healthy adults would be.

A person can be poisoned by a small amount of CO over a longer period of time or by a large amount of CO over a shorter amount of time

Wake Up! Get a working smoke alarm

A working smoke alarm can save your family's lives in the event of a fire in your home.

Did you know that 90 per cent of residential fires are preventable? In Ontario, from 1995 to 2004, almost half (48 per cent) of the preventable fatal fires had no smoke alarm warning. Out of those fires:

  • 60 per cent had no batteries or power removed
  • 7 per cent had dead batteries
  • 4 per cent the batteries were not properly installed

In Ottawa, 44 people have lost their lives due to fires since 2002.

Legal responsibility

In Ontario, you must have a working smoke alarm outside every sleeping area in your home. As of March 1, 2006 you must also have at least one working smoke alarm on every storey that does not contain a sleeping area. It's the law!

If you live in a rental unit, it is the owner's legal responsibility to make sure that you have working smoke alarms.

It is also against the law to disable a smoke alarm.

Furthermore, the Ontario Fire Marshal recommends that each bedroom has a smoke alarm installed within it.  The revised Ontario Building Code requires that new homes have smoke alarms installed each bedroom and the Fire Marshal is asking that all fire departments in Ontario support this initiative and advocate for smoke alarms in bedrooms.

Did you know?

Half of home fire deaths result from fires reported between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. when most people are asleep.  In fact, one quarter of home fire deaths were caused by fires that started in the bedroom. If you need more reasoning to ensure you have working smoke alarms, three out of five home fire deaths happen from fires in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms.

Quick Tips:

Smoke alarms should be installed outside each sleeping area or where a sleeping area is served by a hallway, install the alarm in the hall. Ensure the smoke alarm is installed on or near the ceiling, in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.

  • Install a new battery at least once a year; however we recommend changing them each time we change our clocks. That means once in the spring, and once in the fall.
  • Smoke and Carbon Mononxide (CO) alarms should be tested once a month to ensure they are working properly.  
  • Dust can clog a smoke alarm, so carefully vacuum the inside of the unit if possible. Remember, if it’s electrically connected, shut the power off first. 

Test your smoke alarm

To make sure your smoke alarm is working, you should test it once a month by pushing the test button.

If you think your smoke alarms are more than 10 years old, replace them with new ones.

Change your clock, change your battery

To make sure that the batteries are always fresh, change the battery in your smoke alarm when you change your clock in the spring and fall.

If you do not have a working smoke alarm or if you want more information about smoke alarms and fire safety, contact Ottawa Fire Services at 613-580-2860.

Public attitude towards fire safety

A national study commissioned by Duracell and the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs (CAFC) showed:

One in 10 Canadians experiences a fire in their home, but 48 per cent believe it won’t happen to them

  • 64 per cent of Canadians claim to have an escape plan, but 63 per cent never practice it
  • 28 per cent have replaced a smoke alarm
  • 19 per cent have never replaced their batteries

A fire can destroy your home in minutes.

Energy source for smoke alarms

As an energy source for smoke alarms, the Ontario Building Code states:9.10.19.3. Power Supply(1) Except as permitted in Sentence (2), smoke alarms shall be installed by permanent connections to an electrical circuit and shall have no disconnect switch between the overcurrent circuit device and the smoke alarm.

Many homes in Ontario have smoke alarms that rely solely on the supply of household electricity as an energy source. When power to your home is disrupted for any reason, the smoke alarms are no longer energized. Often, a power outage is planned and managed. For many customers, it is desirable to have the power outage during the night, when their demand for electricity is minimal. Unfortunately, this is when most people are at home sleeping, and depend on a working smoke alarm for early warning of a fire.

Many retailers offer smoke alarms with various features. One such feature is dual power. This smoke alarm option is designed to satisfy the requirements of the Ontario Building Code, and offer an additional energy source from a 9 Volt battery. This unit provides continuous protection when household electricity is not available. The dual power smoke alarm does not have battery charging capability and just like any other battery operated smoke alarm, the battery should be changed twice a year. Another option to ensure continuous protection during a power outage is to install additional battery operated smoke alarms within your home.

Remember, change your clocks, change your batteries.

Smoke alarm tips

Which type of smoke alarm should a homeowner purchase?

It is the consumer's responsibility to assess the circumstances of their household and to select the most appropriate alarm. However, an important consideration in the purchase of a smoke alarm is conformance to a recognized standard. In Ontario, CAN/ULC-S531 is the recognized standard for both the ionization and photoelectric types of alarms. Both ionization and photoelectric type products conforming to this standard are available on the market. A homeowner will know that a smoke alarm meets the requirements of this standard by the ULC or cUL label on the device.

Which type of alarm is more effective?

There is no simple answer to this question. The two types operate on different principles and therefore may respond differently to various conditions. Some advantages to each type are set out below:

Ionization

  • Fastest type to respond to flaming fires
  • Lowest cost and most commonly sold
  • Some models have a hush or temporary silence feature that allows silencing without removing the battery
  • Some models are available with a long life battery

Photoelectric

  • Fastest type to respond to slow smouldering fires and white or gray smoke
  • Less prone to nuisance alarms from cooking

Notwithstanding these differences, to achieve ULC listing, both alarms must be tested to the same standard and meet the same requirements. Photoelectric smoke alarms may respond slightly faster to smoldering fires, while ionization alarms respond slightly faster to flaming fires. Since you can't predict the type of fire that will occur, it is difficult to recommend which is best. Both alarms will detect all types of fires that commonly occur in the home. Installing both types of smoke alarms in your home can enhance fire safety.

Information provided by the Office of the Fire Marshal

What should tenants do if they don't have a working smoke alarm?

The Ontario Fire Code states that the owner is responsible for both the installation and maintenance of smoke alarms. It also states that "Smoke alarms shall be maintained in operating condition by the owner." This means at all times. Tenants should test the smoke alarms as per the manufacturers recommendations.

Where should I install my smoke alarms?

The Ontario Fire Code states:" Effective March 1, 2006, it is the law for all Ontario homes to have a working smoke alarm on every storey and outside all sleeping areas. With this previously announced Fire Code amendment now in effect, it is hoped there will be a reduction of the number of preventable fire-related injuries and fatalities.

The amendment covers single family, semi-detached and town homes, whether owner-occupied or rented."

When should I replace my smoke alarm?

Studies have shown that alarms should be replaced after seven to 10 years.

Why does my smoke alarm go off a lot?

It may be dirty. Clean the unit with a vacuum cleaner - dust particles can and often do set off false alarms.

The alarm may also need to be moved or replaced. It could be too close to the kitchen, bathroom, or heat register. If the alarm appears to be defective, replace it as soon as possible.

Why does my alarm beep?

It may have a weak or inappropriate battery. Check the manufacturer's instructions.

Ontario Fire Marshal

Working smoke alarms: it's the law

Fire extinguishers

A portable fire extinguisher can save lives and property by putting out a small fire or containing it until the fire department arrives; but portable extinguishers have limitations. Because fire grows and spreads so rapidly, the number one priority for residents is to get out safely.

Know when to go. Fire extinguishers are one element of a fire response plan, but the primary element is safe escape. Every household should have a home fire escape plan and working smoke alarms.

Tips on selecting a fire extinguisher

  • Use a portable fire extinguisher when the fire is confined to a small area, such as a wastebasket, and is not growing; everyone has exited the building; the fire department has been called or is being called; and the room is not filled with smoke.
  • For the home, select a multi-purpose extinguisher (can be used on all types of home fires) that is large enough to put out a small fire, but not so heavy as to be difficult to handle.
  • Choose a fire extinguisher that carries the label of an independent testing laboratory.

How to use a fire extinguisher

  1. Read the instructions that come with the fire extinguisher and become familiar with its parts and operation before a fire breaks out.
  2. Local fire departments or fire equipment distributors often offer hands-on fire extinguisher trainings. Learn more about OFS Fire Extinguisher Training.
  3. To operate a fire extinguisher, remember the word PASS:
    1. Pull the pin. Hold the extinguisher with the nozzle pointing away from you, and release the locking mechanism. 
    2. Aim low. Point the extinguisher at the base of the fire. 
    3. Squeeze the lever slowly and evenly. 
    4. Sweep the nozzle from side-to-side.

Install fire extinguishers close to an exit and keep your back to a clear exit when you use the device so you can make an easy escape if the fire cannot be controlled. If the room fills with smoke, leave immediately.

How and where to dispose of old/expired fire extinguishers

Learn more about the disposal of household hazardous waste including how and where to dispose of fire extinguishers using the Waste Explorer tool.

Information provided by NFPA Public Education

Wood stove and fireplace safety tips

We all enjoy the coziness of a warm fire, but danger can be lurking if precautions are not taken:

Chimneys

Chimney attached to a home

All chimneys deteriorate through heavy use, neglect, and age. Some of the many problems include cracked or missing bricks, a blocked flue, missing mortar, a deteriorated crown, corroded flashing, corroded pre-fabricated chimneys, and creosote build-up.

Creosote forms when unburned waste products from wood adhere to the sides of the chimney. The worst danger is that creosote can ignite inside your chimney. A hot and quickly spreading chimney fire can cause damage to your entire house! A disaster such as this can be easily avoided by having your chimney checked annually.

Wood Stoves

Indoor wood stove

Be sure to follow the manufacturers' directions and the local building codes for proper installation, use, and maintenance of your wood-burning stove.

Always start your fire using paper and small pieces of kindling. Never use accelerants to start a fire. Things can get out of hand in a hurry!

Burn only well-seasoned wood. Green or unseasoned wood burns cooler than well-seasoned wood, and can cause creosote to build up at a much faster rate.

Be sure to clean the ashes out of your wood-burning stove on a regular basis. Store the ashes in a covered metal container. Hot coals in discarded ashes can easily ignite grass, leaves, and trees if left uncovered. Keep the ash container at a safe distance away from the house and any other nearby buildings.

Smoke Detectors and Fire Extinguishers

Change the batteries and test each smoke detector unit regularly. If for some reason you have disconnected a smoke detector, hook it back up. This precaution SAVES LIVES! Smoke detectors can be purchased at most hardware, home building, and a variety of retail stores. This is a very inexpensive way to protect you and your family.

Keep a fire extinguisher handy, and make sure that everyone in your household knows how to use it. Keep your fire extinguisher well maintained. If it does not work, it won't do you any good!

Summary of Tips
  • Have your chimney inspected and cleaned by a certified, insured Chimney Sweep.
  • Never start a fire using an accelerant.
  • Burn only dry, well-seasoned wood.
  • Clean out the ashes regularly.
  • Store the ashes in a covered metal container at a safe distance from your house.
  • Be sure your smoke detectors are in proper working order.
  • Obtain a building permit prior to installing your wood stove.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher handy.
  • Make sure your fire extinguisher is well maintained and that every household member knows how to use it.