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Fire detection and escape planning

What to do after a fire

City firefighters have done their job. The fire is out and they have done some of the basic clean-up work. Now you need to deal with the damaged or destroyed items.

You may find that firefighters broke your windows and cut holes in your roof. This was to ventilate the fire. This practice reduces damage in the long run. Otherwise, superheated smoke would continue to move out and obscure any victims. The procedure also reduces the risk of serious injury to firefighters and reduces the possibility of a smoke explosion.

To make sure that there is no hidden fire inside your walls and between floors, firefighters may have made inspection holes. This ensures that the fire is truly out.


You must first protect yourself from additional losses. Some insurance policies (mostly commercial ones) demand that insured individuals prevent further damage to the property however possible. For example, they should make sure that the fire area is inspected thoroughly and should confirm any cleaning or repairs with their insurance agent. Contact your insurance agent if you lost your insurance policy in the fire.

Ottawa Fire Services does its utmost to secure your property after a fire. It removes as much water and debris as possible and tries to protect lightly damaged and undamaged property. It also uses plastic to cover broken windows and ventilation openings in the roof.

If you rent your property, contact the owners of the building. They should then notify their insurance agent. You should also contact the City office regarding possible tax reductions.

Electric appliances

Do not use wet or damaged appliances until they have been properly serviced. If the Fire Department or another agency turned off the power during the fire, call Hydro to have the services restored. Do not do it yourself.

Gas appliances

If your gas supply has been turned off, do not try to restore the service yourself. Call your local gas company and have them do it for you free of charge. They can also test your supply line and appliances.

Food establishments

Restaurants and other food establishments must cease all operations until they have been inspected by the City Health Unit.

Escape planning

A home fire-escape plan may save your family's life.

Developing a fire-escape plan

  1. Install smoke alarms on each floor of your home. Test them regularly.
  2. Draw a floor plan of your home showing all possible exits from each room. Plan a main exit route and an alternate exit route from each room.
  3. Ensure that everyone understands that if they hear the smoke alarm or hear someone shout "fire," they should evacuate immediately.
  4. Decide on a meeting place. Someone should phone the fire department (9-1-1).
  5. Meet the firefighters when they arrive, so they know that you are safe.
  6. Make certain that everyone in your home knows not to re-enter a burning building. Firefighters are properly equipped and trained to perform rescue operations-you are not.

Practice your escape plan

Regular practice is the best way to help prevent panic when an actual emergency occurs. Be sure that every member of the family knows what to do.

Additional information:

  • A properly installed and maintained smoke alarm usually provides enough warning to enable you to leave your home safely.
  • Before opening any door, feel it. Do not open a hot door. Use an alternate exit instead. If you can't climb out of a window, shout from it.
  • Smoke and heat rise; breathable cool air stays low down. Practice your escape plan by crawling on your hands and knees.
  • If you live in an apartment building, your escape plan should take the building-management procedures into account.
  • If there is anyone in your home who needs help to evacuate, assign someone to assist.
  • Make sure your babysitter understands your fire-escape plan.

Highrise fires

If you discover a fire

  1. Leave the area.
  2. Close all the doors as you exit.
  3. Sound the fire alarm.
  4. Telephone 9-1-1 from an area of safety.
  5. Use a safe exit stairwell – not the elevators.

Upon hearing the fire alarm

  • Turn off all appliances.
  • Feel the door before opening it. If it is warm, remain in your unit and call 9-1-1. If the door is not hot, leave the building via the nearest exit and close all the doors behind you.
  • If the smoke is heavy in the corridor, it may be safer to remain in your area. Close the door and place a wet towel at its base.
  • If the stairway is full of smoke, use an alternate exit. If all stairways are also full of smoke, it may be safer to stay in your area.
  • Make sure you take your room key, in case you are forced to return to your unit.

Know your building

  • You should know the location of exits and fire-alarm pull stations--this knowledge may save your life.
  • Make a simple floor plan showing two exits. Walk the distance and actually count the number of steps to these exits.
  • Make your family fire-escape plan now. Have a family meeting to discuss the plan and the fire-safety information on this page.
  • In an emergency, hallway and exit lighting may be out. Make sure that you can follow your escape plan in the dark.
  • Conduct regular fire drills with your family and participate in those conducted by your building's management.

The Ontario Fire Code dictates that:

  • all exits are to be free of any obstructions,
  • all exit doors are to be kept closed, and
  • that you must report any fire safety violations to the superintendent immediately.

Residents are advised:

  • Not to put burning materials such as cigarettes and ashes into the garbage chute
  • Not to dispose of flammable liquids or aerosol cans in the chutes
  • Not to force cartons, coat hangers or bundles of paper into the garbage chutes
  • To cook safely
  • To use only safe electrical appliances. Do not overload outlets
  • To discard frayed extension cords. Do not use extension cords as permanent wiring
  • To avoid careless smoking-use ashtrays and never smoke in bed

Don't forget

Never endanger yourself or others by attempting to extinguish a fire. If you cannot extinguish the small fire with an extinguisher, or if the smoke is dangerous, leave the fire area. Close the door to confine and contain the fire. Activate the fire alarm system, call 9-1-1 and wait outside for help to arrive.