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Smoke Alarms

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Smoke Alarm Campaign

As part of the Fire Chiefs' Association of BC's goal to achieve a working smoke alarm in every home, our Fire Prevention members are available to assist residents who may have difficulty checking, installing or maintaining their smoke alarm. If you, or someone you know needs assistance, contact our Fire Prevention Division at 250-475-5500.

Smoke alarms are critical to home fire safety because they alert us to fire in its early stages. Even more important, they can alert us to a fire when we are most vulnerable - when we are asleep at night. According to the Fire Commissioner, a majority of home fire victims die in homes without a working smoke alarm. The smoke alarms were not working, usually because batteries were dead, disconnected or missing.

Smoke Kills People

A smouldering fire may go undetected for hours, especially when people are asleep. Such a fire will continue developing, giving off smoke and gases which may not be visible but which consume oxygen and replace it with toxic gases, such as carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide and hydrogen cyanide.

These killer agents can take effect before a sleeper is disturbed. An early warning system -- a smoke alarm -- is considered one of the most effective defences against this situation.

Smoke Alarms

  • Purchase one or more smoke alarms
  • Install alarms properly
  • Identify escape routes and practice escaping
  • Maintain your alarms

How do smoke alarms work?

Smoke alarms work by sensing the rising smoke from a fire and sounding an alarm. They can detect smoke far from the origin of the fire. Smoke alarms are most valuable at night, alerting family members to the presence of fire when they are asleep. Smoke alarms can alert the occupants in the early stages of a fire while conditions are such that a safe evacuation is still possible.

Maintain your smoke alarm - test yours every month!

Smoke alarms should be cleaned at least once every six months. Battery powered smoke detectors should be tested every month, and batteries changed at least once a year. It is recommended that smoke alarms older than 10 years be replaced.

If you live in an apartment, it is your responsibility to maintain your smoke alarms, while your landlord is responsible for providing working smoke alarms when you move in.

A working smoke alarm in every home

  • Saanich's Smoke Alarm Bylaw requires smoke alarms be installed, tested and maintained in all existing and new residential buildings in Saanich
  • There should be at least one smoke alarm on every level of the home
  • A working smoke alarm doubles your chances of surviving a fire
  • If you, or someone you know has difficulty checking, installing or maintaining their smoke alarm, contact our Fire Prevention Division for assistance at 250-475-5500

Practice your escape

Now that you have your first line of defence, your family should have an escape plan, because getting out may not be as easy as walking out the door. Plan and practice exit drills with at least two ways out from every room of your home. Make the escape drills as realistic as possible - pretend that certain exits are blocked, that there are no lights and that hallways are filling with smoke. Teach everyone to recognize the sound of the smoke alarm and what to do when they hear it. Never return to a burning building under any circumstance, and use a neighbour's phone for the emergency call to 9-1-1. Here are some key things to remember:

  • If you encounter smoke, use your alternate exit.
  • If you must escape through smoke, crawl low where the air is cooler and cleaner.
  • If your clothing catches on fire - DO NOT RUN - instead STOP, DROP to the ground and ROLL to smother the flames.

Smoke Alarm Bylaw

Saanich Municipal Council has adopted a bylaw which requires the installation and maintenance of smoke alarms in all existing residential buildings. The purpose of the bylaw is to help improve the minimum level of life safety for residents.

The bylaw applies to all residential occupancies including single family, duplex, attached housing and apartments (condominiums). New residential buildings require the installation of wired in smoke alarms in accordance with the current B.C. Building Code.

For existing residential buildings not presently equipped with smoke alarms, the OWNER is required to install and maintain at least one working smoke alarm on every level or storey of a dwelling unit on which a sleeping room is located, and in every sleeping room not within a dwelling unit.

The smoke alarms may be connected to an electrical circuit or may be battery powered. Battery powered alarms shall be equipped with an alarm pause button which when used will temporarily reduce the alarm's sensitivity to smoke.

For all residential buildings:

  • The OWNER is required to test the smoke alarm function at least once every twelve months.
  • The OWNER shall install new batteries in each battery powered smoke alarm at least once every twelve months.
  • The OWNER shall immediately replace or repair any smoke alarm which, upon testing, fails to perform correctly.

(Note: This is a condensed version of the bylaw, presented for your convenience. The comprehensive Smoke Alarm Bylaw is also available online.)

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Last modified: April 14, 2015