What to do to detect and deal with fire

July 28, 2015

Where there's smoke, you don't even have time to look to see if there's fire. Here are tips to get you to safety as quickly as possible in case of fire. 

What to do to detect and deal with fire

Smoke detectors

  • The best defense against fire is early detection. It's critical that you install smoke detectors on all levels of your house, including the basement and outside each sleeping area (inside the room if anyone sleeps with the door closed, as is recommended).
  • To avoid false alarms, install them at a safe distance from steamy showers and cooking ranges.
  • There are two basic types of alarms: An ionization unit emits a small amount of radiation that is detected by a sensor and sounds an alarm when smoke blocks the radiation from reaching the sensor; it is best for detecting fast-burning fires from paper, wood, and fat. A photoelectric unit is triggered when smoke breaks a beam of light; it is better at sensing smoky fires, such as smouldering mattresses.
  • Either type will give you sufficient warning, but if you want to cover all your bases you can always purchase a combined photoelectric/ionization model.

How to install a smoke detector

  • Holding the unit's mounting bracket in place, make pencil marks on the wall through the screw openings.
  • Remove the bracket. At the marks, drill holes to accept anchors for the screws.
  • Tap the anchors into place and reposition the bracket. Attach it by driving the mounting screws into the anchors.
  • Put in the battery, then snap on the unit's cover.

Containing a fire

  • If a small fire breaks out, get everyone out of the house and call the fire department.
  • If the fire is still small, try to put it out with a fire extinguisher.
  • When using an extinguisher, position yourself between the fire and an escape route. Work with a sweeping motion, aiming the nozzle at the bottom of the flames.
  • If the fire gets out of control, leave the house quickly, closing all doors behind you to help contain the fire.

Don't hesitate to leave

  • At the first signs of smoke or fire, get everyone out of the house as quickly as possible.
  • Don't stop to collect valuables or keepsakes.
  • Don't even stop to call the fire department; call from outside on a cell phone or from a neighbour's house.

Escaping a fire

  • Don't panic. Keep a cool head and concentrate on getting to safety.
  • If you're trapped in a room, stay near the floor. If you can't get out through the window, open it both from the bottom (to let you breathe) and from the top (to let out the smoke).
  • If you can get out and you know where the fire is, use a route that moves away from it.
  • Close all doors behind you as you pass through the house to the outside.
  • Feel any door in your path with your hand. If it's hot, don't open it. If it's cool, open it slowly and stay behind it. If you feel heat or pressure coming through the door, slam it shut.
  • If a hall or stairway is filled with smoke, try to find another way out.
  • If you must pass through a smoke-filled area, crawl along the floor, where the air is clearer.
  • In a smoke-filled area, take only short breaths through your nose. Cover your nose with a damp handkerchief, if possible.
  • Once outside, don't go back into the house until the firefighters tell you it's okay.
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