Thunder Bay installs free combination alarms

February 24, 2016
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Fire Chief John Hay says compliance with Ontario’s CO alarm legislation is slowly growing in the community.
Fire Chief John Hay says compliance with Ontario’s CO alarm legislation is slowly growing in the community. Photo by Valerie Marasco
Feb. 24, 2016 - An assistance-based program that offers low-income families and homeowners with physical barriers free combination smoke and carbon-monoxide alarms is helping a northern Ontario department keep its community and firefighters safe.

Thunder Bay Fire Rescue partnered with Union Gas and the Fire Marshal's Public Fire Safety Council though Project Zero to launch the SAFE (Smoke/CO alarms for everyone) program late last year.

Union Gas donated $3,000 towards combination smoke/CO alarms that will be installed in about 100 homes in the community. Residents qualify for the program based on demonstrated financial or accessibility needs.

Ontario passed legislation in 2014 that requires all homes to have a working carbon monoxide alarm on every level.

Fire Chief John Hay said compliance in the community is growing, but increasing awareness of the dangers of CO is an ongoing challenge for the department.

"Any medical call we go to now, all our firefighters on their medical bags carry CO detectors; it's turned on before they go into the building," Hay said. "There have been firefighters and paramedics who have been hurt and hospitalized after going to a call for an unconscious [person] and finding extremely high levels of CO."

Hay said the SAFE program is also another method for fire prevention and public-education staff to engage with the community and encourage compliance.

"It does bring a little bit more awareness," he said, "but our prevention activities with our fire trucks with our suppression staff is getting the most value."

The SAFE program runs until the department hands out all its combination alarms, but Hay said he hopes to create a similar program in the future with other sponsors.

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