How to protect yourself and your home this winter
By Jessica Berget, Assistant Editor
According to a 2019 news release by the province of BC, there was no working smoke alarm for 43 percent of fire related deaths.
As more people stay indoors because of the colder temperatures and COVID-19 stay-at-home regulations, the risk of accidental house and building fires has been increased. In fact, fire related fatalities are already on the rise in BC, with 15 deaths so far this year—three times as many as 2019—according to CBC. In comparison, for an average year Vancouver sees four fire related deaths and 49 injuries. Jonathan Gormick, public information officer for the Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services, says this rise in deaths could be related to the pandemic and more distractions with people working from home. “They might start to cook a meal and then get distracted by work or schooling or any number of those things—and that’s when fires occur.”
This year, firefighters also dealt with a 17 percent increase in indoor fires and 20 percent increase for outdoor for the past two months. They ask people to regularly check their smoke alarms; according to a 2019 news release by the province of BC, there was no working smoke alarm for 43 percent of fire related deaths. It is also recommended to test your alarms every month and changing the batteries every year, and to have an emergency preparedness plan in the case of a fire.
The province of BC also states in the news release that the most common causes of fire to look out for include cooking related equipment or leaving cooking unattended, matches or lighters and other smoking materials, as well as space heaters and other heating equipment. According to another 2003 to 2007 study by the public safety division of Alberta Municipal Affairs (which was based on fire incident data in Canadian provinces), some other causes of home fires are candles, faulty electrical wiring in your house, smoking, and drying machines. The same study found that people over the age 75 are more at risk of dying in home fires.
According to the City of Vancouver, a fire related death happens in North America every 80 minutes and someone is treated for burns every 15 seconds; it is crucial to have a fire safety and evacuation plan. Some aspects of a safety plan include drawing a floor plan with two exits for every room, choosing a meeting place that is a safe distance from your home, and calling 911 once everyone has reached the meeting place. They also recommend practising evacuation activities like staying low to the ground to the avoid smoke fumes, feeling doors for heat before opening them, and getting out immediately after hearing a fire alarm.