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                                             Fire Prevention Week 2016



Commonly Asked Questions

Fire department personnel are asked many questions about all aspects of firefighting and prevention. Many of those questions are included here. The answers can help you prevent fires in your home. If you have a question that is not answered here, call your local fire department with your request.

I have a fire hydrant in my front yard...can I beautify it by planting shrubs or flowers around it? Can I paint it to complement my house colour?

Absolutely not! Fire hydrants not only are city property, they are ON city property and must be easily visible for use in case of a fire. During the winter, please make sure snow is cleared out from out the hydrant and can be easily reached by firefighters.

Do I need to install a smoke alarm in my home?

Smoke alarms are required on every lvel of the home. It is required by provincial law in Ontario as a means of preventing fire deaths in residential homes. Statistics have shown that most fire deaths occur in the home. Section 2.13 of the Ontario Fire Code requires homeowners to install and maintain in working order a smoke alarm between each sleeping and living area. Offenders can be fined over $200.00. Smoke alarms can be either hard-wired into your home's electrical system or battery-powered.

More information on smoke alarms >>

Can you recommend the best brand of smoke alarms to purchase?

Purchase a smoke detector that has been either CSA-approved (hard-wired) or U.L.C.-approved (battery-operated). Labels are clearly marked on the package. If possible, a combination of both types of smoke alarms in your home is recommended. If required, contact your local fire department for more information on smoke alarms.

More information on smoke alarms >>

My rented dwelling is not equipped with a smoke alarm and my landlord refuses to install one. Am I responsible for the installation?

No, you are not. Your landlord is required to install and maintain the smoke alarm. When you move into a rental house or apartment there must be a working smoke alarm on each level.  If no smoke alarm is present inform the landlord immediately.

Maintenance is also the landlord's responsibility. If the unit is not working or the battery requires changing inform your landlord immediately.

If the landlord does not install or maintain the smoke alarms contact the Owen Sound Fire and Emergency Services immediately at 519-376-2512.

My smoke alarm is constantly going off, for no apparent reason. Is there something wrong with it?

  • First, try cleaning the unit with your vacuum cleaner (use the brush attachment and be gentle). False alarms are often set off by dust particles.
  • Second, try another location. It might simply be that it is too close to the bathroom, the kitchen or a heat register. If a change of location doesn't work, the unit may be defective and need to be replaced. Refer to the installation instructions.
  • Third, and most important. DO NOT TAKE THE BATTERY OUT!! Too often, batteries that are removed are not replaced, making the alarm totally ineffective and putting your family's life in jeopardy.

More information on smoke detectors >>

Should my new carbon monoxide alarm be installed right next to my furnace?

No. Read the information sheet enclosed with your new alarm. It should be installed where it is easily heard, so as close as possible to your home's sleeping area is the best place. Carbon monoxide does not just originate from your furnace, but can be emitted from any appliance using fuel such as your fireplace and kitchen stove.

More information on carbon monoxide alarms >>

Where should I install my new fire extinguisher?

Store your fire extinguisher away from the stove near the entrance to the kitchen. Use the bracket supplied by the manufacturer to mount it on the wall. In the workshop, the extinguisher should be mounted away from power tools and near the exit so you can get to it in case of fire. More information on fire extinguishers >>

Are the contents of a dry chemical extinguisher toxic?

No, they are not. Dry chemical extinguishers are usually filled with Mono-ammonium phosphate, which is a non-toxic substance. However, large amounts of this powder in the air can make it difficult to breathe. As soon as a dry chemical extinguisher is discharged, leave the area and call the fire department at 9-1-1 to make sure the fire is out.

Where should I store the propane tank for my BBQ?

All propane tanks should be stored in a detached shed or outside, protected from the weather. Make sure the tank is stored 10 feet from any of the building's openings.

More information on BBQ safety >>

Can I put my old propane tank out with the weekly garbage?

No, all old propane tanks must be taken to an outlet that refills them. Do not store them in or around your home and garage.

Can I store disposable propane cylinders inside?

No. These should be stored outside or in a separate shed and at least 10 feet away from any of the building's openings.

My vehicle is propane-powered. Can I park it in an underground parking garage?

Yes, you can, but only if your windshield bears a special tag issued by the installing company. If you are a tenant in a building, check your lease or condo agreement to make sure it is allowed by the building's owners.

Why can't I use the elevators during a fire alarm?

  • The elevator could become a smoke shaft during a fire.
  • There could be a power failure and you could be trapped in the elevator car.
  • The elevator door could open at the floor where the fire is located and expose you to extreme heat and smoke.
  • The elevator is needed by firefighters to transport manpower and heavy equipment to the upper floors as quickly as possible.

Why are the doors to stairwells kept closed in a multistoried building?

Protection. The doors prevent the spread of smoke, heat and hot gasses through the stairwell, leaving them free to evacuate people safely from the building. A wedged-open door allows smoke to fill the stairwell and the building's upper floors, putting the occupants at risk.

What do I do if I am not physically able to use the stairs to escape?

If a "Fire Safety Plan" is in place in your building, ask to have your name and address put on the "Persons Requiring Assistance" page.

Other things to do in case of fire:

  • Stay in your unit.
  • Use wet towels or duct tape (available at any hardware store; check the grocery store, too) to seal around your door to the hallway to keep smoke out of your unit.
  • Call the fire department at 9-1-1 and give them your exact location, including your apartment number. Signal the firefighters from your balcony or window.

Is a building's fire alarm system directly connected to the fire station?

Not always! Some buildings are monitored by private companies which notify the fire department when the alarm goes off. Other buildings are monitored directly by the local fire department. Other buildings have only a local alarm which is not monitored by either a private company or the fire department. When the alarm is sounded, it is important for people to call the fire department immediately from the building and not to assume that someone else has already done so or that the alarm is directly linked to the fire department.

I noticed that firefighters at a house fire recently could see the fire through the window but didn't spray it with the water hoses. Why?

The firefighters did the right thing. A human being's first instinct is to pour water on a fire to put it out and firefighters have to fight this instinct, too. If the firefighters had taken a hose and sprayed water in the window, the fire would've been driven throughout the rest of the home forcing fire and heated gasses onto both firefighters and victims. Firefighters try to enter a house, do search and rescue procedures and then drive the fire out and away from the unburned part of the building.

Some firefighters just stand around while others go in the house and fight the fire. Shouldn't they all be in the house?

Teamwork is an essential part of firefighting. Each member of the firefighting team has a specific job and the rest of the crew depends on him to do that job. The "Incident Commander" may look like he is just standing around, but he is actually supervising the fire fighting. Part of his job is safety officer, too; he watches for developing dangers. The pump operator is required to stay at his vehicle to make sure the men on the hose lines receive an uninterrupted supply of water.

At a house fire, why are the windows broken or holes cut in the roof by the firefighters?

A fire moves in all directions as it builds in intensity. Hot, explosive smoke and gasses are produced that could explode or spread the fire quickly. "Controlled" breaking of the windows and cutting holes in the roof by firefighters--known as "ventilation"--decreases those possibilities. It may not look like it, but it is a safer way of fire fighting and causes a lot less damage in the long run.

Why were holes cut inside, in the walls, floors and ceilings?

These holes are cut to make sure the fire is completely put out. Fire is sneaky in that it hides in walls and other concealed spaces. This process is an extremely time-consuming phase of fire fighting. Firefighters do their best to keep damages to a minimum so that effectively fighting a fire is not compromised.

My building services were all cut off during a recent fire at my home. Why?

If a fire is fairly severe, services such as gas, electricity and water are shut off to ensure the fire fighting efforts are done as safely as possible. It prevents, too, the possibility of the services making the fire worse. Before services are started up again, appliances, etc. need to be inspected for safety reasons.

Why do so many fire department vehicles show up at house fires?

Ten firefighters are required for a single family house fire for safety and effective fire fighting. The minimum number of vehicles responding to a single family house fire is one pumper and one ladder truck as the initial response. Fighting a fire is a team effort and the whole team is needed.

I called for an ambulance recently and a fire truck showed up first. Why?

The Owen Sound Fire Department works on a tiered response system with the ambulance service. This is now common practice in many Ontario cities. The fire department responds to any life threatening medical calls received by the ambulance service. Our staff is thoroughly trained and certified in CPR and heart defibrillation. This quick response provides the public with the best life support until the paramedics arrive.