Update to council.
Captains Pat Donohue, left, and Kevin Van Woezik update Admaston-Bromley council on the volunteer Douglas Fire Department’s smoke alarm program.
Steve Newman, Renfrew Mercury
Over the last six months, almost 77 per cent of Douglas-area residences visited by the Douglas Fire Department were found to have their smoke alarms in total compliance with regulations.
“If you’re in school that would be a good mark,” said Captain Pat Donohue of the volunteer fire department, whose inspection covered 104 residences over the past six months. “But that means that there are still a lot of people only in partial compliance.”
In fact, there were 19 residences (or 18.2 per cent) in partial compliance, and another five residences had no smoke alarms.
No fines have been levied during the inspections, but that could happen down the road, suggested Captains Donohue and Kevin Van Woezik during a smoke-alarm update to Admaston-Bromley council Nov. 1.
Council members also learned that local households fared much poorer when it came to having escape plans or fire extinguishers.
Fifty-nine of 104 households had escape plans and only 55 households had at least one fire extinguisher.
In the entire township, there are 1,369 households.
“It’s going to take a while to go through the (whole) community,” said Van Woezik, who stressed that any visits are worthwhile because they increase the opportunity to talk about fire safety with residents.
Sometimes a short conversation can go a long way toward making households a whole lot safer.
During one visit, for example, a fire alarm seemed to be installed properly, but it wasn’t working. Upon closer inspection, the battery was found wrapped inside the alarm in cellophane.
“Similar little things can lead to tragedy,” said Van Woezik.
Mayor Raye-Anne Briscoe called the smoke alarm program an important one “that has safety written all over it.”
Bill Bowes, who chairs the township’s emergency management committee, also attended the Nov. 1 presentation.
Bowles, who’s also a former long-time member of the Douglas Fire Department, said no one has been fined for not being in compliance, “and hopefully we won’t have to.”
“We’d rather help them get into compliance,” said Capt. Donohue, indicating that the fire department’s work has included the purchase and installation of smoke alarms in five households.
“With those five, we didn’t leave there until they had working smoke alarms,” said Donohue. “We purchased smoke alarms and we actually installed them in those places.”
The captains acknowledged that a few residents are resistant to allowing firefighters into their homes.
But the right to enter one’s home to inspect their fire-safety equipment isn’t taken lightly, said Van Woezik.
“For those people who are resistant, I have this to say: We do encounter the odd place where there might be difficult circumstances, like conditions of poverty, where there were no smoke alarms.
“That gives us a chance to visit those homes, to talk some fire safety, install some smoke alarms, and leave them much safer than how we found them. Sometimes we have to give up a little bit of freedom for the better good of everyone.”
The visit is also a chance for the firefighters, said Van Woezik, to emphasize the importance of a functioning smoke alarm and having an escape plan.
“Next to having your smoke detector, the escape plan is the second most important thing that a family should have (as far as fire safety),” said Van Woezik.
“And they should practise it with their children … in a situation where there’s a fire, there’s a panic when that alarm goes off a three in the morning and the house is totally dark.
If everyone knows where they’re to go and what they’re to do, the chance of survival is much better.
“That’s why we’ve been asking about the escape plan, because if they don’t have one, it will get them thinking about doing that.”
The fire department tends to do fire-safety visits Thursday evenings or Saturday mornings, when family members are more likely at home.