Sidney firefighter Greg Holton holds up a smoke detector. They should be checked every month to see if they still work. They could save your life. (Steven Heywood/News staff)

Fire Prevention Week on the Saanich Peninsula: Plan your way out of a house fire

Teach them early, and hopefully the lessons will stick later in life — and with their parents.

That’s one of the reasons local firefighters are taking Grade 4 and 5 students through lessons in fire safety in the lead up to Fire Prevention Week. Saanich Peninsula fire departments worked together recently, on their annual Fire Safety Expo — and their theme is the same as this year’s Fire Prevention Week in Canada: Every Second Counts: Plan two ways out.

Central Saanich Fire Chief Chris Vrabel says the key work on that, is plan.

“Fire and smoke moves faster that we do,” he said, “so practicing your fire escape plan ensures that you can get out when a fire does break out.”

Just talking about having a plan to get out of your home isn’t enough. Vrabel said parents and their children and other family members need to practice — too see if young kids or elderly relatives will need help to reach an exit. And finding out that window doesn’t open when a fire occurs, is just too late, he said.

North Saanich Deputy Fire Chief Steve Knapp says kids are encouraged to draw up escape maps based on the layout of their homes. That an be shared with their parents and hung up in a prominent place. Knapp said it’s important to have two ways out of your home — in case the main exit (usually the front door) is blocked by fire or debris.

Practicing an escape plan, Knapp added, helps people remember what to do in case there’s really a fire.

“It’s always the last thing on your mind,” he said, adding if they practice it, they won’t have to fight to remember what to do in an actual emergency.

Sidney Deputy Fire Chief Mike Harman says escape plans are important for you home — no matter where you live. The Sidney Fire Department, he said, works with local seniors facilities, to ensure staff are trained in what to do and any issues (such as mobility) are addressed at each place.

“We’re trying to work with seniors and students on fire and earthquake drills,” Harman said, adding as his counterparts do, there are many tools that can help people get out of an emergency situation safely.

Those include working smoke detectors, rope ladders under the beds in upper-floor rooms, fire extinguishers that everyone knows how to use properly and then a meeting place that everyone remembers.

And once those tools are in place and are working alongside an escape plan, people have a much better chance of getting out alive and not feeling the urge to rush back in to a burning building because they forgot something or someone.

“Once you’re out, you’re out,” Harman said. “Don’t go back for anything. Get to your meeting point.”

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