Don’t sleep on checking your smoke detector

A hand holding a white smoke detector in a row of smoke detectors.
A man holds smoke detectors, in this illustration photo, March 3, 2015. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau

It’s Fire Prevention Week and Manitoba is ringing the alarm on defective smoke alarms.

The province’s Office of the Fire Commissioner is collaborating with a number of other related organizations on a campaign to remind everyone of the importance of having working smoke alarms. The campaign is using the slogan: “hear the beep where you sleep.”

According to some studies, the chance of dying in a fire is reduced by half when smoke alarms work properly and give people a chance to get out in time. This makes sense, because most fires have happened during night time — between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. — when people are asleep and not paying attention to their surroundings.

This week’s fire-prevention campaign comes with a number of tips for residents to make sure they have functioning smoke alarms. These include:

  • installing an alarm in every bedroom and on every floor;
  • interconnecting alarms so when one goes off, all others do as well;
  • teaching everyone what the alarm sounds like and what to do when they hear it;
  • testing alarms at least once a month.

While you’re at it, don’t forget to install carbon monoxide detectors if you have a gas furnace or any other gas appliance. Carbon monoxide is a silent killer and often results in headaches, nausea, and fatigue first. Last year, three members of a Brampton, Ont. family died as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning from an indoor heater.

Having smoke alarms and carbon dioxide detectors inside residential dwellings is mandatory under fire codes in every province and territory.

For instance, the Ontario Fire Code requires all single family detached and semi-detached houses to have “smoke alarms between each sleeping area and the remainder of the dwelling unit, and where the sleeping areas are served by hallways, the smoke alarms shall be installed in the hallways.” If you violate the code, you may get a fine of up to $50,000, imprisonment for up to one year, or both.

Similarly, the Manitoba Fire Code requires smoke alarms be installed “in each sleeping room and on each floor level of the egress locations.” The code also requires carbon monoxide detectors to be installed when there is risk of exposure. Violators can be fined up to $125,000, be imprisoned for up to six months, or both.

In addition to having to pay hefty penalties, your home insurer may not compensate you for any damages arising from a fire if an investigation reveals you neglected to install working fire alarms. Your insurer may refuse to pay you on the basis that you were negligent or failed to mitigate your damages by installing proper safety equipment.

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