Ontario’s top firefighter is taking another step to prevent deaths from fire as the province experiences its highest number of such fatalities in 20 years.
On Wednesday, Ontario Fire Marshal Jon Pegg announced that September 28 will be the province’s first Test Your Smoke Alarm Day. The designation comes after 133 people died in 2022 as a result of house fires.
Most deadly fires occur in homes without working smoke alarms, and people often have seconds to leave their homes to save their lives, Pegg said.
“Over the past year, we have witnessed a tragic increase in fire fatalities in our county,” he said.
“These weren’t just statistics. These were real people, including children with families and loved ones who are now forever affected by these devastating events. What makes these losses even more heartbreaking is that many of these fires happened in homes without working smoke alarms.”
Pegg said the day is intended to encourage all Ontario residents to test their smoke alarms and every month thereafter. Testing simply involves hitting the test button to make sure an alarm works properly, he said.
Smoke detectors have been required by law to be installed on every floor of an Ontario residence since 2006, but Pegg said compliance was lacking.
“If you don’t have a working smoke alarm, your chance of survival is very slim.”
Number of deaths from fire ‘stunning’, says the official
Pegg said in an interview that Ontario residents are becoming complacent about fire safety. He added that it is “stunning” to see so many fire deaths in Ontario given the technology available today to warn people of a fire.
“Is it complacency? It absolutely is. People just don’t get the message,” Pegg said.
“For whatever reason, the people of Ontario just don’t believe it will happen to them. It’s a combination of smoke alarms not working and not having a plan when a fire happens, of knowing what to do and how to It’s devastating and we need to change it,” he added.
“Smoke alarms are the deciding factor in people’s lives. It’s the only device that gives you the early warning you need to get out. You literally have seconds. The only thing that can save your life is a working smoke alarm. “
Pegg said smoke alarms are inexpensive and a battery-powered smoke alarm can be purchased for $10.
“We have to reverse the trend,” says the fire chief
Rob Grimwood, president of the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs, said it’s important to change how Ontario residents feel about smoke detectors. He said the number of fire deaths in 2022 is disturbing.
“It has to stop. We have to reverse the trend,” Grimwood said.
“Being sure you have working smoke alarms only happens if they are tested once a month, the batteries are changed once a year and the alarms are no more than 10 years old,” he said.
The announcement comes on the heels of a two-day summit, Operation SAFER (Smoke Alarms For Every Residence) in Vaughan, which drew more than 350 delegates representing the Ontario Fire Department.
The Test Your Smoke Alarm Day takes place in the week before Fire Prevention Week, which runs from 8 to 14 October.