March 23, 2012 – Fire chiefs in British Columbia are tackling a challenge that has gnawed at public-education advocates for years: how to decrease the numbers of fire fatalities through a more effective, harder-hitting smoke-alarm campaign.
March 23, 2012 By Laura King
The Fire Chiefs Association of B.C. (FCABC), with the support of the Canadian
Association of Fire Chiefs (CAFC) and the clout of B.C. Attorney General
Shirley Bond, launched a provincial smoke-alarm campaign on Thursday that it hopes will
spiral into a national public-education movement to save lives.
key message in the campaign is that 69 deaths could be prevented every year if
all Canadian homes had a working smoke alarm.
The chiefs plan to work with federal politicians to launch a national smoke-alarm
the crux of the campaign are four videos: three are aimed at occupants and, in
no-hold barred images, explain the life-saving benefits of smoke alarms (you can one example at;youtu.be/R6hR_jfCyAI ; the fourth is a call to action for fire
departments to promote the program youtu.be/uay7COaohIA. The motto “We won’t rest until you install
and test” is prevalent in all the videos. “The movement is happening and we are
behind it,” says the voiceover in the fire-department video.
president Len Garis, whose passion for numbers and studies led to the
initiative, said research by Surrey Fire Service and the University of the
Fraser Valley shows that working smoke alarms can reduce fire deaths by as much
as 32 per cent annually. The research
also indicates that vulnerable populations – such as children and the elderly –
are at the highest risk of dying in a residential fire.
goal of the B.C. campaign is to ensure that every home in the province has a
working smoke alarm. The FCABC and the B.C. Office of the Fire Commissioner
will lead a steering committee of stakeholders to focus on the three Es of
injury prevention – education, environment and enforcement.
and researcher Dr. Joe Clare looked at 50,000 residential fires in Alberta,
B.C. and Ontario over five years (up to October 2011) involving 663 fatalities.
They found that the death rate per 1,000 fires when there was no functioning
smoke alarm was 74 per cent greater than when a functioning smoke alarm was
The three provinces
represent more than 60 per cent of the Canadian population. In the executive
summary to their report, Garis and Clare say that that having
functioning smoke alarms in every residential property could prevent about 69
deaths per year in Canada, which would reduce annual fire fatalities in
residential structures by 32 per cent
“This is a very poor report card on the state
of functioning smoke alarms in our province and country,” Garis said. “As a
fire service, we now have the opportunity to work together and make a real
difference on this important safety issue. We’ve tackled this issue before, but
this time we’ll be looking for permanent, sustainable solutions.”
to the study, there is more potential for fatalities from residential structure
fires in households with young children, older adults or people with
disabilities; in rental units; and in households in low-income areas, in rural
communities, and on First Nations reserves.
facets of the campaign include:
· A national injury-reduction forum on Oct. 12, hosted by Surrey Fire Service with the Canadian
Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons
· The development of partnerships
to maximize the protection offered by smoke alarms to the most disadvantaged
members of society
· Targeting engagement
with B.C. First Nations
· Working with
multi-residential building managers to maximize protection within these
· Exploring the potential
to develop a school-based curriculum for fire-prevention
· Exploring the potential
to use the legislation to compel annual testing of smoke alarms upon insurance-policy
· Encouraging MPs to
focus on design changes to smoke alarms to address design deficiencies that
enable them to be disconnected and also mean they can become non-functioning
without alerting residents.
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