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B.C. smoke alarm campaign protects the vulnerable

April 18, 2013 – British Columbia's fire chiefs say seniors and other vulnerable populations across the province are safer following the distribution of more than 9,500 free smoke alarms in the past year.

April 18, 2013
By Olivia D'Orazio

April 18, 2013 – British Columbia's fire chiefs say seniors and other vulnerable populations across the province are safer following the distribution of more than 9,500 free smoke alarms in the past year.

The Fire Chiefs Association of British Columbia (FCABC) said in a news release Wednesday that more than 55 communities so far have ordered free dual sensor photoelectric/ionization smoke alarms from the FCABC, through a multi-agency campaign launched in March 2012 with the goal that every home in the province have a working smoke alarm.

“The research is clear that working smoke alarms save lives and that seniors are among the most at risk of dying in a fire,” FCABC president Len Garis said in the release. “We need to keep raising awareness that smoke alarms don’t last forever – they need to be maintained regularly and replaced every 10 years.”

A study by the University of the Fraser Valley last year revealed that, in the 11,000 house fires in B.C. from 2006 to 2011, almost 70 per cent of homes did not have a functioning smoke alarm, and that the province’s most vulnerable populations – including the elderly and first nations – face the highest risk of dying in a residential fire.

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Furthermore, the study found that the risk of fatalities from residential structure fires is greater in households with young children, older adults, or people with disabilities. Risk of death is also higher in rental units, homes in low-income areas, rural communities and on First Nations.

The research also predicted that working smoke alarms in every home could reduce fire deaths in B.C. by as much as 32 per cent.

“It is extremely important that seniors take note of this research, and make sure they have a smoke alarm and that it is tested regularly,” Garis said.

The campaign, headed by the FCABC and supported by the provincial government, has received 11,500 donated Kidde smoke alarms to date. Kidde Canada donated 5,000 alarms at the program’s start, half of which were directed to First Nations communities. Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada provided another 2,500 alarms to First Nations populations.

Last month, the Super Save Group – a consortium of British Columbia companies that range from shredding services to propane distribution – bolstered the campaign with the donation of another 4,000 Kidde alarms. Several other companies and organizations throughout the province have also gotten involved.

In May, Black Press added a multimedia component to the campaign, with a $350,000 investment. The company, which owns several newspapers throughout western Canada, says it wants to raise awareness among its readers about the importance of having working smoke alarms in their homes.

The province’s 93 food banks worked with local fire departments throughout the summer: firefighters distributed free smoke alarms to food bank clients, teaching them about the proper installation and maintenance of the alarms.

Meanwhile, during the month of July, the Pizzarama Pizzaria in Kitimat, B.C., delivered its pizzas by fire truck. Clients who had working smoke alarms in their homes received their pizza free of charge. Those who did not had to pay for the pizza, but received a new alarm installed at no cost.

In November, Shaw Cable donated $90,000 worth of air time across 16 TV stations so that the FCABC could run a message about the campaign, informing the viewers of the importance of working smoke alarms.

Victoria Fire Chief Jeff Lambert, who chairs provincial life safety committee, said in the release: “The fire departments are thankful for any resources they get to do a better job and be more efficient and help their citizens.

"We've blanketed the province with smoke alarms that will make a difference. That will supplement programs that are already in place to help vulnerable people in our communities.”

Fire departments can contact the FCABC to request smoke alarms for their community. For more information on the initiative, visit www.workingsmokealarms.ca.