While smoke detectors have always been critical, the prevalence of modern building materials has underscored their importance.
“In the ‘60s, early ‘70s, our homes were mostly organic – solid wood, wool (among other materials),” said Chief Brett Mikkelsen of the Sidney Volunteer Fire Department. “Everything, we have in our home now is plastic. It’s all polymers and when they get heated, they break down and fuel each other in such rapid succession. Where you might have had a couple of minutes to get out of a fire previously, now it is a matter of seconds. So if you can’t hear a smoke detector and immediately pop out of bed and have a plan to get out and get your loved ones out, you just don’t have time. So it’s a critical life safety device.”
It is against this backdrop that Sidney offers a long-standing program, where members of the Sidney Volunteer Fire Department will go to the home of residents, whether renters or owners, to inspect installed smoke detectors and change batteries as long as they are battery-powered.
“That’s all part of being proactive,” said Mikkelsen. “If we can get people out of a fire before showing up to one, that is a win for us, especially with our cohort of residents. So often we don’t want people in their 70s or 80s going up on a stepladder to change batteries,” he said. “That just leads to another call for us.”
While the department will mark occasions like Fire Prevention Week, Oct. 3 to 8, and the changing of the clocks in the spring and fall to remind residents about the importance of smoke alarms, the department receives a fairly steady number of requests under the program. In any given year, the department will handle between 250 and 300 requests.
“What we are also starting to do now, if people are amenable, we will also do a home fire safety inspection,” he said. “We will look through your home and make sure there are no concerns. Are your drapes contacting your baseboard heaters? If you have young children, are pot handles turned inward, so that there isn’t a scalding hazard, if they pull them out – all those types of things to reduce the risk proactively. We are happy to do that as well and we are developing a bit of check sheet. (We) will also encourage folks, while we are there, to sign up for Saanich Peninsula Alert for emergency management.”
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