Fire safety tips for newcomers

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Statistics show that on the average, fire kills eight people each week in Canada, with residential fires accounting for 73% of these fatalities (Fire Prevention Canada). The most common sources of fires are cooking, home heating, electrical problems, smoking, candles and children playing with fire. This is why ensuring fire safety should be one of your priorities when you settle in your new apartment or house.

In Canada, it is required by law to install devices that help in early fire detection, such as smoke alarms on every level of the house. Some municipalities even require carbon monoxide detectors to warn against gas leaks.* As a newcomer, it would also be helpful to familiarize yourself about common home features in Manitoba. You should check where the electricals, furnaces, heaters, and fireplaces are and at least have an idea how they work. Proper usage of facilities and regular maintenance are the pillars of home fire prevention.

The following are the other things that can help make your home safe. These tips will also help you and your family become prepared for any fire emergency:

Be prepared

  1. Teach your kids the importance of fire safety even at an early age. Child-proof household tools and features – have socket covers, use only “child resistant” lighters, and make sure that knobs of gas stoves or ovens are out of reach for children.
  2. If you live in an apartment, learn the Fire Safety Plan for your building. Pay attention to the location of the fire escapes as well as fire extinguishers.
  3. Have an emergency plan in place. Practice a fire drill with your family so that they will know where to exit or where to meet outside of the house in case you get separated (some fire fighters recommend your mail box if it is located some distance from your house).
  4. Teach everyone the “Stop, Drop, and Roll”. If their clothing catches fire, this is what they should do to smother the flames.

In an actual fire

  1. If you see flames, smell smoke or hear the alarm, try to get everybody out. If the front door handle is not hot, open it slowly and move out.
  2. If you have to move through flames and smoke, “get low and go”. Smoke rises and the air near the floor is safer to breathe.
  3. In an apartment building, always use the stairs instead of the elevators. Stop at your arranged meeting place outside the building or house and check if all your family members are accounted for. Call 911.
  4. If you are trapped inside the building or room in your house, seal the spaces around the door with blankets, sheets or towels to prevent smoke from coming in. Call 911 and signal for help from the window.

Take extra care

  1. Never leave candles burning when you are not in the room or when you are about to sleep. Don’t place burning candles near curtains, windows, near electrical wiring, or places where children or pets can reach them. Always use sturdy, fire-resistant containers that also collect dripping wax.
  2. Do not plug in too many appliances and overload electrical outlets.
  3. Never leave heaters on when leaving the room.
  4. Use a barrier to keep children and pets away from gas or wood burning fireplaces when they are in use.
  5. Use extreme caution when cooking with oil. In general, do not leave grilling, frying or broiling unattended.
If you live in an apartment, check out “Are you a tenant or landlord?” on the Manitoba Residential Tenancies Branch website to know which utilities and safety features you can ask your landlord to provide or help you with.*If you are first-time homeowner, go this page on the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) website to find out the things you need to install or maintain to keep your home safe.

Sources: CMAS Canada/Fire Prevention Canada brochure on Fire Safety and the Canada Safety Council website.

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Community Resources

You can download fire safety pamphlets from the Manitoba Office of the Fire Commissioner site or at Winnipeg 311 City Services. You can also order them on the same page.

Here is a downloadable fire safety brochure in Arabic from the Windsor Fire and Safety Services site. There are also other languages available on the website.

For more tips on using extension cords, lights, plugs and other safety measures, go to the Canada Safety Council website.

Here is a home safety checklist for new renters or homeowners.  It lists down safety features you should look out for before moving in and the other security features you should install and maintain especially when there are kids in your home.

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