Smoke detectors in all homes the goal

Smoke detectors save lives.

That’s the message that fire departments in the Cowichan Valley want to share during Fire Protection Week 2014.

“We’ve seen evidence of the benefits of smoke detectors in the Valley,” said Art Sanderson, deputy chief with North Cowichan’s South End fire department. “There have been a number of calls where they might not have directly saved lives, but they saved property, and if people had been in those buildings, they could have been beneficial to them.”

Most homes have smoke detectors, but the rate is still not at 100 per cent, Sanderson said. “That’s why we have campaigns like this, to get everybody with a smoke detector in their home,” he pointed out.

Thanks to a program sponsored by the provincial government, fire departments do have smoke detectors that they can hand out to people in need. Sanderson encouraged families without a smoke detector to pick one up.

“They’re there for your protection,” he said. “The things we want to protect are the things we love, like our children. We need to give them an early warning.”

In order for smoke detectors to be to be effective, homeowners need to monitor their batteries and frequently ensure that the detectors still work.

“People should check their smoke detectors on a monthly basis and change the batteries regularly,” Sanderson said.

“We say when you change your clocks, change your batteries. That’s just one way of remembering when they need to be done.”

Sanderson also encouraged parents, particularly of children ages 4-10, to practice evacuation drills at home.

“When you have small children, if you practice, you know what to do,” he said. “If you don’t, and all they hear is the sound [of the smoke detector], that’s not helpful. Practicing at home with children is essential.” This is a good time to combine two important activities into one.

“If you haven’t tested your smoke detector, use that as an opportunity to test the smoke detector and have an evacuation plan,” Sanderson said.

Don’t surprise your kids with a nighttime test run. Get them acquainted with the evacuation plan while they are awake and alert.

“You want to get your kids familiar with the plan in an unthreatening situation, such as during the day when they are playing and they will know exactly what to do,” Sanderson said. “Once they are familiar, you can ramp it up and try it during the night.”