Plan Ahead. If a fire breaks out in your home, you may have only a few minutes to get out safely once the smoke alarm sounds. Everyone needs to know what to do and where to go if there is a fire.

Safety Tips for the Home

kitchen fireKitchen

  • Avoid loose long sleeves when cooking.
  • Check kettles and toasters for damaged electrical cords and thermostats.
  • Use appliances that have an automatic shut-off.
  • Keep a timer handy to remind you when the oven and burners should switched off.
  • If you take medication that causes drowsiness, do not use cooking appliances.
  • Use a temperature-controlled electric skillet or deep-fryer for frying.
  • Never leave your cooking unattended.
  • Use appropriate cooking appliances and keep them clean.
  • Keep a pot cover nearby to "put a lid on it" in the event of a fire.

Living Room

  • Fireplace: always use a fire screen, ensuring it is the appropriate size for the fireplace opening.
  • Do not overload electrical outlets or use extension cords in the place of additional outlets.
  • Smokers should check furniture for fallen cigarettes or embers, which can smoulder undetected for hours before bursting into flames.
  • Ensure careful use of smoking materials and extinguish in water before disposal.
  • Never leave cigarettes in an ashtray unattended.
  • Use ashtrays with a double rim and deep centre.
  • Keep matches, lighters and lit candles out of the reach of children.
  • Never leave lit candles unattended.


  • Install at least one smoke alarm outside each sleeping area. For improved safety, install a smoke alarm in every bedroom.
  • Check electrical appliances regularly: electric blankets, heating pads, curling irons, radios, televisions, irons.
  • Bedrooms should be non-smoking areas.

house safetyBasement and Attic

  • Remove all combustible and flammable materials from the basement and attic.
  • Store gasoline in well-ventilated areas.
  • Do not store propane indoors.
  • Use only approved containers to store and transport gasoline.
  • Have a thorough yearly maintenance check of the furnace carried out by a professional.
  • When replacing an old furnace, consult a professional to determine the most safe, economical and efficient system for your home.
  • Chimneys should be cleaned at least once a year. 

Garage and Workshop

  • Flammable materials – thinners, gasoline, paints, and industrial cleaners – should be stored neatly in approved containers and away from possible ignitable sources.
  • Do not smoke, or leave matches or lighters in the garage or workshop.
  • Install and know how to properly use the appropriate fire extinguisher for the garage/workshop.
  • Keep the area clean. Remove garbage, paper products, oily rags and wood shavings regularly.


Home Cooking Safety

Cooking oil and grease fires are a major cause of residential fires in Canada.

Deep Frying

  • The safest way to deep fry foods such as chicken or fries is to use a thermostatically-controlled electric skillet or a deep fat fryer.

pan firePan Frying

  • Keep a pan lid or cookie sheet handy in case grease or oil catches fire. The lid or cookie sheet should be slid over the top of the pan to smother the fire.
  • Never attempt to move a flaming pot or pan away from the stove. The movement can fan the flames and so spread the fire. The pan will also likely be very hot, causing you to drop it. In either case, you are placing yourself at great risk. Your immediate action should be to smother the fire by sliding a lid or flat cookie sheet over the pan. Afterwards, turn off the heat and exhaust the fan, allowing the pan time to cool. Most importantly, react fast, because grease fires spread very quickly.

oven fireOven Cooking

  • Keep your oven clean. Grease and food splatters can ignite at high temperatures.
  • Ensure that you wear oven mitts when removing cooking containers to avoid serious burns.
  • Follow the cooking instructions for the recipe and the product you are using.
  • Broiling is a popular method of cooking. When you use your broiler, place the rack 5 to 8 cm (two to three inches) from the broiler element. Always place a drip pan beneath the broiler rack to catch the fat drippings. Never use aluminum foil for this purpose because the fat accumulated on the foil could catch fire or spill over.

Microwave Cooking

  • Microwave ovens are a marvellous time-saving tool, but there are three characteristics of microwave cooking you should be cognisant of:
    • The heat is reflected by the metal interior.
    • Heat can pass through glass, plastic and other materials.
    • Heat is absorbed by the food.
  • Foods, like those in high-fat or sugar, can heat very rapidly but feel cool to the touch. Pastry fillings can be very hot, but the crust cooler. Milk in baby bottles could be boiling, but the bottle itself not very hot to the touch. Use caution at all times.
  • Do not use tin foil or any other metal objects in the microwave. If a fire occurs, keep the door closed and unplug the unit. Call a qualified maintenance technician to ensure the microwave is in proper working order before using it again.

smoke alarm

Home Smoke Alarms

Questions and Answers

1. What is a smoke alarm?

A smoke alarm is a battery operated or electrically connected device that senses the presence of visible or invisible particles produced by combustion and that is designed to sound an alarm within the room or suite within which it is located.

2. Are smoke alarms effective?

The largest percentage of fire deaths in the home occurs at night while people are asleep. Therefore, a working smoke alarm can provide an early warning that can make the difference between life and death. According to studies published by the National Fire Protection Association, having a smoke alarm cuts your risk of dying in a fire by nearly half. However, a smoke alarm should be part of an overall home fire safety strategy that also includes preventing fires by adopting fire safe behaviour, and developing and practicing a home fire escape plan. In a fire, escape time may be very limited. Therefore, escape plans are a critical aspect of a home fire safety strategy. For additional information on the effectiveness of smoke alarms, refer to the Smoke Alarm Fact sheet.

3. What is the principal reason for smoke alarms not functioning?

Over a recent three year period, an analysis was undertaken of people that died in homes where smoke alarms were present but did not work. 85% of those victims did not have a functioning smoke alarm because of a dead or missing battery/power source.

4. What types of smoke alarms are available on the market?

There are two types of household smoke alarms in common use. These are known as ionization or photoelectric type smoke alarms.

5. How does an ionization type smoke alarm work?

This type of alarm uses a small amount of radioactive material to ionize air in the sensing chamber. As a result, the air chamber becomes conductive permitting current to flow between two charged electrodes. When smoke particles enter the chamber, the conductivity of the chamber air decreases. When this reduction in conductivity is reduced to a predetermined level, the alarm is set off. Most smoke alarms in use are of this type.

Home Electrical Safety

The Dangers of Extension Cords

  • Extension cords are a common cause of electrical fires. That is why you must be careful to use only extension cords that are rated for the power used by the device they are powering.
  • Extension cords must never be run inside walls or under rugs or furniture. They can be damaged by traffic or heavy furniture and start arcing, which can lead to a fire.
  • Extension cords can get warm during use and must be able to dissipate this heat or they can start a fire.

electrial problemSigns of an Electrical Problem

  • Flickering lights: If the lights dim every time you turn on an appliance it means that the circuit is overloaded or has a loose connection.
  • Sparks: If sparks appear when you insert or remove a plug, it could be a sign of loose connections.
  • Warm electrical cord: If an electrical cord is warm to the touch, the cord is underrated or defective.
  • Frequent blown fuses or broken circuits: A fuse that continues to blow or circuit breaker that keeps tripping is an important warning sign of problems.
  • Frequent bulb burnout: A light bulb that burns out frequently is a sign that the bulb is too high in wattage for the fixture.

How to Avoid Dryer Fires

  • Lack of maintenance is the number one cause of dryer fires. That is why it is critical to clean the lint filter before and after each use, and wipe away any lint that has accumulated around the drum.
  • Perform periodic checks to ensure that the air exhaust vent pipe is unobstructed (lint accumulation) and the outdoor vent flap opens readily.
  • Do not run the dryer without a lint filter.
  • You are encouraged to not leave the dryer running if you go out, in case it malfunctions.
Home Fire Extinguishers

Read the instructions on your extinguisher for proper use.
If there's a fire, get everyone outside and ask a member of your family to call the fire department from a neighbour's house. Only then should you permit yourself to fight a small fire. If the fire becomes large, get out. Close doors behind you to slow the spread of the fire.

fire extinguisherThe ABCD's of Portable Fire Extinguishers

  1. Ordinary Combustibles – Fires started with paper, wood, drapes and upholstery require a Class A type extinguisher.
  2. Flammable and Combustible Liquids – Fires originating from fuel oil, gasoline, paint, grease in a frying pan, solvents and other flammable liquids require a Class B type extinguisher.
  3. Electrical Equipment – Fires started with wiring, overheated fuse boxes, conductors, and other electrical sources require a Class C type extinguisher.
  4. Metals – Certain metals such as magnesium and sodium require a special dry powder Class D type extinguisher.

A multi-purpose dry chemical labelled ABC puts out most types of fires: wood, paper, cloth, flammable liquids and electrical fires. If you intend to buy more than one, you may want to purchase a BC for the kitchen, an A for the living room and an ABC for the basement and garage.

Buying and Maintaining an Extinguisher

  • Extinguishers come in various size and types depending on need. Whatever type you buy, it should be labelled by a nationally recognized testing laboratory.
  • Generally a multipurpose ABC extinguisher is suited for use in residential settings.
  • Ask your dealer how to have your extinguisher serviced and inspected. Recharge it after ANY use. A partially used extinguisher might as well be empty.
  • Extinguishers should be installed near an escape route and away from potential fire hazards.

Operating a Fire Extinguisher

Remember "P-A-S-S" when fighting a fire!
pass(Pull, Aim, Squeeze, Sweep)

  • PULL out the locking pin, breaking the seal. Some extinguishers may use a different release device. Please refer to your operator's manual.
  • AIM the nozzle horn (or hose) at the base of the fire about 3 metres (10 feet) from the fire.
  • SQUEEZE the trigger handle all the way, releasing the extinguishing agent.
  • SWEEP the material discharged by the extinguisher from side to side, moving front to back, across the base of the fire until it appears to be out. Keep your eyes on fire area. Repeat the process if the fire starts up again. Never turn your back on a fire even if you think it is out.

Most extinguishers will operate according to the PASS method. Some extinguishers may not. Read your operator's manual for specific directions. Remember to recharge the extinguisher immediately after use.

Home Fire Escape Plan

escape planDevelop and Practice a Fire Escape Plan

  • Install smoke alarms on every level. Keep smoke alarms clean and dust-free, checking them monthly. Replace batteries yearly and alarms every 10 years.
  • In order to be able to react quickly to fire, draw a floor plan of your home showing all possible exits from each room.
  • Where possible, plan two exits: a main route and an alternate route from each room.
  • Since the majority of fire deaths occur while you are sleeping, you should practice your plan at night as well, getting down on your hands and knees with a flashlight while crawling to safety.
  • Make certain that everyone understands that if they hear the smoke alarm, or someone shouting "FIRE", they should immediately evacuate the home.
  • Designate a meeting place outside your home in the event of a fire.
  • Small children unable to escape should be taught to open their windows and wave an article of clothing to attract attention. Instruct them to wait at the window until someone comes and to never hide from the fire. Discuss with a fire department official whether an escape ladder would be appropriate to install.
  • Sleep with doors closed.
  • If awakened by a smoke alarm, instruct family members to feel the door for heat and check air at the bottom. If you don't smell smoke and the air is cool, kneel and open the door slowly, turning your face away from the opening. If smoke is present or the door is hot, use another exit.
  • Purchase an A-B-C fire extinguisher, whose rating is based on the fuel: 'A' originates from a wood or paper fire, 'B' is caused by flammable liquids and 'C' is an electrical fire. Learn how to use this fire extinguisher by remembering the acronym PASS. Pull the pin, Aim the extinguisher, Squeeze or press the handle and Sweep side-to-side at the base of the fire.
  • If you live in an apartment building, develop your escape plan taking into account fire escape procedures provided by building management.
  • Make sure your babysitter understands your fire escape plan.
  • Practice Your Escape Plan: regular practice is essential so that every family member knows what to do and will be able to react quickly.

escape ladder

Ensure that everyone in your home knows not to re-enter.
Call the Fire Department from a neighbour's home.

For more information about home fire escape planning, contact your local fire Station.

fire escapeWork Fire Escape Plan 

Do you know?

  • Your Fire Department's emergency number?
  • Your fire escape plan?
  • Your designated meeting place in the event of a fire?
  • The location of the nearest fire extinguisher?
  • The location of the nearest fire alarm station?
  • The location of the nearest two exits?
  • Who needs assistance in the event of an emergency?

If you don't know, find out now!

  • Mobility-impaired? Obtain information from supervisor.
  • Read the posted fire emergency instructions.
  • Report all fire hazards to supervisor staff.
  • When the fire alarm sounds, CALL 911.
CO alarmQuick Facts on Carbon Monoxide (CO)

WHAT IS IT: A colourless, odourless and tasteless gas.

SIGNS: Stuffy air, water vapour, backdraft and soot from a fireplace.

SYMPTOMS: Headaches, weakness, nausea, vomiting and loss of muscle control. They can be mistaken for flu symptoms.

EFFECTS: If inhaled, carbon monoxide deprives the blood of oxygen. Prolonged exposure can lead to unconsciousness, brain damage or death.

CAUSES:Blocked or dirty vents, flues, chimneys and furnaces, as well as improper ventilation of burning fireplaces or woodstoves.

DEATHS: Approximately 200 per year. For more statistics visit

PREVENTION: Annual inspection and cleaning of:

  • Furnaces
  • Chimneys
  • Fireplaces
  • Other fuel-burning equipment such as gas dryers
Safety tips on how to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning:

INSTALL at least one carbon monoxide detector in your home.

ENSURE a wood or coal-burning stove is properly installed and vented.

DON'T operate a gasoline-powered engine, kerosene stove or charcoal grill in a closed space.

BARBECUE grills should never be operated indoors.

CHECK clothes dryer vents that open outside the house for lint.

CHECK forced air fans for proper ventilation.

If you suspect carbon monoxide in your home, get out immediately and call the fire department.


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