Fire prevention for your home

Be prepared

Every resident has a responsibility when it comes to emergency preparedness. You should be prepared to take care of yourself and your family for a minimum of 72 hours during an emergency situation. It is important that you are prepared and understand your responsibilities during an emergency.

Your Personal Preparedness Guide outlines the steps you can take right now to ensure that you are prepared in the event of an emergency. It includes information on preparing your family for various types of emergencies that could occur; a template and instructions for creating your home escape plan; a checklist for creating your emergency kit; and your emergency and non-emergency contact information. Please take the time to review this information with your family and develop your personal emergency preparedness plan.

Smoke alarms

Smoke alarms save lives. Without them you don’t have a chance! The Fire Code requires working smoke alarms on all levels of a dwelling and outside every sleeping area. It is the owner’s/landlord’s responsibility to ensure that if a smoke alarm is not working, it is repaired immediately and it is the tenant’s responsibility to report a non-functioning smoke alarm to the landlord forthwith.

It is the responsibility of homeowners to install and maintain smoke alarms on every storey of their home and outside sleeping areas.

It is the responsibility of landlords to ensure their rental properties comply with the Ontario Fire Code. Landlords are also responsible to ensure smoke alarms are installed and maintained in operating condition and that tenants are provided with smoke alarm manufacturer’s maintenance instructions.

Tenants shall not disable a smoke alarm.

Failure to comply with the Fire Code smoke alarm requirements could result in a $360 ticket or a fine of up to $50,000 for individuals or $500,000 for corporations.

  • When installing smoke alarms, refer to the manufacturer’s instructions for information about correct placement.
  • Test your smoke alarms every month using the test button.
  • Replace smoke alarm batteries at least once a year, and whenever the low-battery warning chirps.
  • Smoke alarms don’t last forever. Replace smoke alarms with new ones if they are more than ten years old.

Steam from the shower or cooking in the oven, stove or toaster can cause smoke alarms to activate. Do not remove the battery. Instead, purchase a smoke alarm with a hush feature that will temporarily silence the alarm or a photoelectric alarm that is less prone to nuisance alarms from cooking.

Carbon monoxide

Keeping safe from the silent killer

When cooler weather approaches, we want to remind everyone to have furnaces and other fuel-burning appliances in their homes inspected by authorized service personnel, to prevent the serious hazards of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.

What is carbon monoxide?

Carbon monoxide is a colourless, odourless, tasteless and toxic gas, and is often referred to as the ‘silent killer.” When inhaled it inhibits the blood’s capacity to transport oxygen throughout the body. It can poison the body quickly in high concentrations, or slowly over long periods of time.

What are symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning?

Exposure to carbon monoxide can cause flu-like symptoms such as headaches, nausea, dizziness, burning eyes, confusion, drowsiness and even loss of consciousness, in severe cases, carbon monoxide poisoning can cause brain damage and death. The elderly, children and people with heart or respiratory conditions may be particularly sensitive to carbon monoxide.

How is carbon monoxide generated in the home?

Carbon monoxide is a by-product of incomplete combustion of fuel such as natural gas, propane, heating oil, kerosene, coal, charcoal, gasoline or wood. This incomplete combustion can occur in any device that depends on burning for energy or heat, such as furnaces, room heaters, fireplaces, hot water heaters, stoves or grills and any gas powered vehicle or engine. Automobiles left running in attached garages, gas barbecues operated inside the house or garage, grills or kerosene heaters that are not properly vented, or chimneys or vents that are dirty or plugged may create unsafe levels of carbon monoxide.

When properly installed, maintained and vented, any carbon monoxide produced by these devices will not stay inside the home.

What are some danger signs?

  • You or other members of your family have symptoms of carbon monoxide exposure (see above).
  • You notice a sharp, penetrating odour or smell of gas when your furnace or other fuel-burning equipment turns on.
  • The air is stale or stuffy.
  • The pilot light of your furnace or other fuel-burning equipment goes out.
  • Chalky white powder forms on the chimney/exhaust vent pipe or soot build-up occurs around the exhaust vent.

How can unsafe levels of carbon monoxide he detected?

Carbon monoxide alarms monitor airborne concentration levels (parts per million) of carbon monoxide and sound an audible alarm when harmful carbon monoxide levels are present.

Be sure that your alarm has been certified to the Canadian Standards Association CAN/CGA 6.19 standard or the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) 2034 standard.

If you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning in your home

If you or anyone else in your home is experiencing the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, ensure that everyone leaves the home immediately. Call your local fire department or 911 from a safe location outside your home.

If your carbon monoxide alarm sounds do not assume it to be a false alarm. Open all doors and windows to ventilate the home. If you cannot find the problem and the alarm continues, contact the fire department. If there is a strong smell of natural gas in your home, evacuate immediately, leaving the door open, and call 911.

If no symptoms are experienced, reset the alarm and check to see if the alarm activates. If the alarm sounds a second time, call the local fire department for their assistance.

If the alarm does not sound a second time, check for common conditions that may have caused a carbon monoxide build-up (see the accompanying illustration) or contact a qualified heating contractor to check your fuel-burning equipment.

Carbon Monoxide Regulations – “It’s the Law”

The Ontario Fire Code sets out the legal requirements for the locations and installation of carbon monoxide alarms in residential occupancies.

Single detached homes

A building that contains a residential occupancy and also contains a fuel burning appliance, fireplace or an attached garage must have a carbon monoxide alarm installed next to each sleeping area.

Multi-unit residential buildings

In the case of a multi-unit residential (apartment) building with a service room that contains a fuel burning appliance and is not located within a suite of residential occupancy; a carbon monoxide alarm must be installed in the service room or area where the appliance is installed and next to each sleeping area in each suite of residential occupancy that has a common wall, floor or ceiling with the service room or area where the appliance is installed.

In the case of a multi-unit residential building that contains a parking garage, a carbon monoxide alarm must be installed next to each sleeping area in each suite of residential occupancy that has a common wall, floor or ceiling with the parking garage.

General requirements

  • A carbon monoxide alarm may be connected to an electrical circuit with no disconnect switch between the fuse or breaker and the alarm; may be battery operated; or may be plugged into an electrical receptacle.
  • A carbon monoxide alarm must meet the requirements of CSA-6.19, “Residential Carbon Monoxide Alarming Devices” or UL 2034, “Single and multiple Station Carbon Monoxide Alarms.”
  • A carbon monoxide alarm must be installed in conformance with the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • A carbon monoxide alarm that is installed next to a sleeping area must be equipped with an alarm that is audible throughout the sleeping area, even if any doors between the alarm and any parts of the sleeping area are closed.

Please refer to the manufacturer’s instructions for additional information regarding proper use and maintenance.

Home heating safety information is available on the Technical Standards and Safety Authority website.

Gas meter winter maintenance

Outdoor natural gas meters and/or pressure regulator sets are designed to withstand extreme weather conditions. But please remember to protect them from ice and snow build-ups during our harsh winter months.

  • Clean and repair your leaky eavestroughs regularly to prevent ice and melting snow from dripping onto the natural gas meter and/or pressure regulator set causing them to be encased in ice when the weather is cold.
  • Don’t pile snow against your natural gas meter and/or pressure regulator set when shovelling or using a snow blower.
  • Never allow snow to completely cover your natural gas meter and/or pressure regulator set. Remove soft snow build-up gently, using only a broom or your hand.

Most new natural gas appliances have plastic vents for their exhaust and air intakes. These vents terminate at the side of most home, at least 12 inches above the ground. During excessive snow falls, these vents may become buried in snow. If the vents are blocked by snow, the appliances are designed to shut down for safety. Home owners should check these vents and remove the snow as required.

Cooking safety

Cooking is the number one cause of residential fires in Ontario.

  • Keep a proper-fitting pot lid near the stove when cooking. If a pot catches fire, slide the lid over the pot and turn off the stove. Do not move the pan until it has completely cooled. Never put water on a grease or oil fire.
  • Wear tight-fitting or rolled up sleeves when using the stove. Loose, dangling clothing can easily catch fire. If your clothing catches fire, stop, drop to the ground and roll over and over to put out the fire.
  • Keep combustible items such as cooking utensils, dishcloths, paper towels and pot holders a safe distance from the stove.
  • Keep children away from the stove. Make sure electrical cords are not dangling from countertops, where they could be pulled over by small children.
  • Cool a burn by running cool water over the wound for three to five minutes. If the burn is severe, seek medical attention.

Always make sure to:

  • Stay in the kitchen and pay attention when cooking!
  • Drink responsibly when cooking.
  • If a fire occurs, get out immediately and call 911.

Source: Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs

In the house

  • Test your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms monthly and change batteries annually.
  • Check the gauge on fire extinguishers, locate them in the path of exit travel, and understand how to operate them.
  • Check for overloaded or damaged extension cords, replace where needed.
  • Ensure you have an emergency preparedness kit in case of incidents such as power outages and flooding.
  • Practice your family’s fire escape plan so everyone knows what to do in case of an emergency.
  • Windows should be checked to ensure they open and close properly, in case they are needed as an exit.
  • Properly store household chemicals and never mix cleaning agents
  • Recycle: Get rid of old newspapers, magazines and junk mail. These items tend to pile up and can greatly contribute to the severity and spread of fire.
  • Check and clean filters above stove.
  • Pull refrigerator out and vacuum or dust the coils.
  • Always keep stairs and landings clear for safe evacuation in event of an emergency.

Space heaters

  • Make sure that any space heaters are surrounded by at least three feet of empty space.
  • Never place clothing or any other objects on a space heater to dry.
  • Do not place space heaters near furniture or drapery.
  • Turn space heaters off when you leave the house or go to bed.
  • Avoid storing any combustible items near heaters.
  • Avoid operating space heaters on extension cords or as a permanent source of heating.
  • Use space heaters in conformance with manufacturer’s instructions

Source: Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs

Outside the house

  • Make sure your address numbers are up and visible from the street.
  • Maintain a clear ‘fire zone’ of 10 feet around structures.
  • Check outdoor electrical outlets and other electrical appliances for animal nests and to ensure proper wiring.
  • Keep 100 feet of garden hose with an attached nozzle connected and ready for use.
  • Remove leaves and trash from carports and garages. Combustible materials are dangerous if they are exposed to heated automobile components, especially under the vehicle.
  • Clean up and properly store paints, pool and yard chemicals.
  • Check fuels containers for leaks and make sure they are properly stored.
  • Let power equipment sit for approximately 30 minutes before placing it inside to be sure there is no possibility of fire.
  • Never park your car or truck over a pile of leaves. The heat from the vehicle’s catalytic converter or exhaust system can ignite the leaves below. The resulting fire could destroy your vehicle.
  • Flammable liquids should not be stored in inside the home or in an attached garage or shed. This includes any unused fuel still in the fuel tank. Store this equipment away from your home or drain excess fuel out of the tank before storing. This simple safety precaution will help prevent accidental fires from escaping fuel vapors.
  • Remove fuel from lawn mowers before storing them for winter.
  • Contact your utility company if trees or branches are not clear of power lines.
  • Don’t store cardboard boxes, paper or other flammable materials in the backyard. These materials provide ready fuel for a fire and all it takes is one spark.
  • Follow regulations with respect to “open air burning”.

Source: Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs

For more information

Fire Prevention Bureau
Guelph Fire Department