Fire Safety Tips You Need to Know - Joy Through Chaos

Fire Safety Tips You Need to Know

image of fire man outside burning home

Ready to learn some fire safety tips? Look no further! This is a fantastic guest post from Tracey, a 911 Communications Operator and the woman behind Little Pockets of Bliss, to tell us all about fire safety tips.

Fire is a necessary part of life; we can cook with it, create heat with it, enjoy a backyard campfire, a candlelight dinner, or cozy up to the fireplace in wintertime.  But there is always danger when it comes to fire, and it’s important to know some essential fire safety tips to be prepared for emergencies that can arise.

(While the following information is intended to be instructional, please always check with your local fire department for information, laws, and regulations specific to your area and situation)

911 dispatcher sitting at desk

Here are some common questions and answers from a 911 Fire Communicator that might surprise you, along with some fire safety tips to help you and your family be prepared!

Fire Safety Tips

Calling 911

Everyone knows the number to call in case of an emergency…911.  But do you know HOW to call 911, what to say, or what questions they might ask you?  Does your child?

Do you have a landline home phone (old school, plugged into a wall jack)?  Is it an internet or VOIP based phone? Are you (and your child) aware that this type of phone will not work if the power is out?  

Same goes for cordless phones.

Does your child know how to make a call on your house or cell phone, especially if you have a password lock on your phone?

When you dial 911 in an emergency, the person answering the phone will likely ask you “What is your emergency?” and “What is the address of the emergency?”  Try to stay calm and answer the dispatcher’s questions.  Don’t hang up until they tell you it’s okay to do so.

Does your child know your address?  

In many areas (but not all), when you dial 911, your phone number and location automatically show up on a 911 operators screen…but only if you’re calling from a landline, like your home phone (if you have an internet phone, this may not necessarily be the case, you need to read the fine print on your contract).  

As more and more people rely on cell phones and cancel home phone service, this becomes a significant safety issue. Most newer cell phones do have GPS, but the location is an estimate and does not always pinpoint where you are calling from.  

It’s important to know your address, and the address of places you often frequent (grandparents, daycare, work, etc.). Also consider babysitters, whether they have a cell phone, and make sure they know your address.

Don’t let children play with phones, even deactivated cell phones (which can still make emergency 911 calls in some cases).  If you or your child do call 911 by accident, don’t hang up!

Hang up calls have to be followed up on, so it’s much easier for you to report the mistake than tying up emergency resources to check on you.

Smoke Detectors

Most fatal fires occur in homes where there are no working smoke detectors.  In most places, it’s the law to have working smoke detectors on every floor of your house, particularly near the sleeping areas.  

If you sleep with bedroom doors closed, it is a good idea to put smoke detectors in every bedroom. Keep in mind that children, especially heavy sleepers, can sleep through even the loudest smoke detector.

Test your detectors every month and change the batteries once a year (a good reminder is when changing clocks forward or back in spring or fall for daylight savings time).  

It’s a good idea to teach your children what it sounds like. Make sure your detectors are UL certified (CSA or ULC in Canada), read the instructions, and check the expiration dates.  

Clean detectors according to manufacturer’s instructions (they are a favorite home for spider webs and dust bunnies).

Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Carbon Monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless, tasteless gas that can kill.  It is a byproduct of combustion, usually from wood burning stoves, gas stoves, gas water heaters, and furnaces, or cars warming up in an attached garage.  

Symptoms of CO poisoning are like the flu…headaches, nausea, dizziness, fatigue, difficulty breathing, mainly if the symptoms get better when you leave the house.

You should have a CO detector in your home, near bedrooms so it can be heard.  While smoke detectors need to be mounted on the ceiling (smoke rises), carbon monoxide has the same density as air, so CO detectors can be installed anywhere (always check manufacturer’s instructions). Again, make sure to test monthly, change batteries, and check expiry dates.

If your CO detector sounds, go outside in fresh air and call 911.  Keep doors and windows closed after you leave, so the fire department can get accurate air readings and locate the source of the CO.

There is always danger when it comes to fire, and it’s important to know key fire safety tips to be prepared for emergencies.

Make an Escape Plan and Practice It

Come up with an escape plan from your home and practice it until it feels comfortable for everyone.  Practice at night with the lights out, as that’s when most deadly fires occur.

Smoke rises, so make sure you practice crawling low. Have a meeting place outside (usually at the front of the house or apartment by the street, so you can meet the fire department). 

Explain to children how important it is not to go back inside, not for mom or dad, valuables or pets.   Also let your children know that firefighters, paramedics, and police officers might be strangers, but they are there to help.

Your local fire department is an excellent resource for information on fire safety tips.  They often have educational materials to help you make your escape plan, and can answer questions you or your child may have.  

Check if they have a website, or if they hold any public open house or fire safety events.

And Lastly…Cats Stuck In Trees

Fire departments are there to respond to emergencies.  While it certainly feels like Kitty is a part of the family, it’s not appropriate to tie up emergency services for animal rescues.  

You don’t see cat skeletons in trees…they do eventually find their way down. We recommend a can of wet cat food or tuna, open it and place at the bottom of the tree, then leave the area.  

If lots of people are standing around, the cat likely won’t come down for fear of getting in trouble or stressing out. It can sometimes take hours, but the cat will come down eventually.

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Tracey Anderson is a 20-year veteran 911 Communications Operator with the Fire Department in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada.  She is also a single mom of 2 boys, and blogs about finding joy in everyday life at Little Pockets Of Bliss.


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