Hay River Fire Department

Smoke Detectors

By Ross Potter

As a member of the fire service for 27 years, I have seen all too many times the devastation fire can incur on people and their homes. Watching a household endure the loss of their most valued possessions is simply heartbreaking. But there’s no greater horror than to witness a family suffer the aftermath of one or more loved ones who have perished in a fire. What’s most tragic about so many of these incidents, and I must admit sometimes frustrating, is that the fatal outcomes often could have been prevented with the presence of properly installed, working smoke alarms.
Each year, nearly 3,000 people die in home fires; many of those deaths could be avoided with the proper smoke alarm protection. The nonprofit National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) statistics show that while working smoke alarms cut the chance of dying in a fire nearly in half, roughly two-thirds of all home fire deaths result from fires in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms.

People have grown so accustomed to seeing smoke alarms in their homes that they feel adequately protected by them. The public’s complacency toward smoke alarms and fire safety in general must change. With a greater understanding and respect for fire’s potentially devastating impact, people can start taking the steps necessary to better protect themselves and their families.
NFPA’s recommendations include a smoke alarm installed in all bedrooms, and at least one on every level of the home (including the basement), and outside all sleeping areas. It is also recommended that smoke alarms be interconnected, so that when one sounds, they all do. Most residents are not aware of the two types of smoke alarm technologies available – ionization and photoelectric. Ionization smoke alarms are generally more responsive to flaming fires – like a pan fire or smoke from cooking. Photoelectric smoke alarms are generally more responsive to smoldering fires – like a cigarette, overheated wiring, or something hot like a space heater. Both types of smoke alarms should be installed in your home or combination ionization and photoelectric smoke alarms that take advantage of both technologies. Unfortunately, many homes in Hay River, and in communities throughout Canada, still do not have this level of protection.

As the official sponsor of Fire Prevention Week, October 3-9, 2010, NFPA is promoting “Smoke Alarms: A Sound You Can Live With!” to better educate the public about recommendations for smoke alarms, and the steps they can take to best protect their homes and loved ones. The Hay River Fire Department is actively supporting this campaign through family-oriented events in Hay River during Fire Prevention Week.

Hay River Fire Department is doing its part to educate residents about the importance of installing and maintaining smoke alarms appropriately. But the true safety lies with Hay River residents and their willingness to take the steps needed to protect their homes and families from fire. Our sincere hope is that everyone participates in one or more of these activities, and starts working toward a community safe from fire.

Ross Potter, Fire Chief
Town of Hay River