PARRY SOUND - Drier than normal weather plus vivid memories of Ontario’s many large fires and evacuations in 2011, has a number of cottage and fire safety organizations working together to make fire prevention and preparedness a top priority for anyone who owns or rents a woodland property this season.
In its sixth successful year, the “Peace of Mind for Your Piece of Heaven” cottage fire and carbon monoxide (CO) safety awareness campaign is bigger than ever, highlighted in 2012 by a new contest on Facebook.
“We’re asking cottagers to be extra vigilant and take precautions to prevent cottage fires and carbon monoxide tragedies this season,” says Ted Wieclawek, chair of the Fire Marshal’s Public Fire Safety Council (FMPFSC). “Being properly equipped with working smoke alarms and CO alarms can provide those precious seconds to escape in an emergency.”
The FMPFSC, the Federation of Ontario Cottagers’ Associations (FOCA), The Ministry of Natural Resources, Aviation, Forest Fire and Emergency Services branch, Kidde Fire and CO Alarms, local fire departments and nearly 100 individual cottage and lake associations have collaborated on this year’s effort.
The new ‘Safe at the Cottage’ Contest will reward cottage owners in Ontario who best demonstrate the spirit of fire and carbon monoxide safety. Cottagers are invited to share photos or stories about how they made their property ‘CO Safe’ or ‘FireSmart’ indoors or outdoors on the campaign Facebook page at www.facebook.com/safeatthecottage.com. Prizes up for grabs include FireSmart Safety Toolkits from the Ministry of Natural Resources, Kidde Smoke Alarms, Carbon Monoxide Alarms and Escape Ladders, Xplornet Internet 4G rural internet & 32 GB Tablet with Wi-Fi, and, subscriptions to Cottage Life magazine. Full details can be found on the Facebook site. Winners will be selected by a judging panel from participating partners. The contest runs from Thursday, May 17 to August 31.
“As the voice of cottager and lake associations throughout Ontario, FOCA is intent on helping drive greater awareness about the threat of wild fires, cottage fires and carbon monoxide poisoning. More than 60 of our partner cottage property organizations are onboard to help spread the word,” said Terry Rees, executive director of the Federation of Ontario Cottagers’ Associations.
“Most people believe that fire, or carbon monoxide exposure, won’t happen to them but every year numerous families do indeed face life-threatening emergencies in cottage country,” said Carol Heller, a safety specialist with Kidde Canada. “So to stay safe, cottagers need to ensure they have working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms in compliance with provincial laws and municipal bylaws, and, replace any smoke alarms past their 10-year lifespan and CO alarms over seven years old.”
Tips to help prevent cottage fires
Follow Ministry of Natural Resources FireSmart guidelines to create a zone of protection around your cottage:
· Don’t stack wood along exterior walls. Store combustible materials like fuel and woodpiles at least 10 metres away from the cottage.
· Keep your roof and rain gutters free of debris and overhanging vegetation that could spread fire.
· Use an approved spark arrestor on your chimney or stove pipe. Enclose all open spaces where fuel can accumulate i.e. under decks.
· If renovating, consider replacing flammable roofing, siding, and foundation enclosures with fire resistant materials.
· Always have fire suppression tools available i.e. shovel, rake or garden hose.
· Consider chipping, composting or taking your brush to a disposal site instead of burning. Check with your municipality before you burn leaves and debris. Outside of municipalities, use a burn barrel that meets the guidelines in the Forest Fires Prevention Act.
· Choose a safe day for a fire; do not burn debris or start a campfire when it’s windy or during a fire ban.
· Never leave any fire unattended. Keep water handy to douse the flames, if needed, and to ensure your fire is completely out when you are finished.
· Whether cooking indoors or outside, stay close by and don’t leave cooking unattended.
· Extinguish cigarette butts by dousing them with water or crushing them thoroughly in bare mineral soil or on bare rock.
Tips to help survive a cottage fire
· Make sure you have working smoke alarms on every storey and outside sleeping areas. It’s the law.
· Replace batteries in all smoke alarms when you open your cottage for the season.
· Smoke alarms do not last forever. Replace any smoke alarms over 10 years old. Setup a regular routine to maintain your alarms following manufacturer guidelines.
· Create and regularly practice a fire escape plan with the whole family.
· Ensure family, guests and renters know the exact cottage address as well as the fire emergency number in your area.
Tips to avoid carbon monoxide tragedies at the cottage
· If your cottage has any fuel-fired devices such as gas, propane or wood heating systems and appliances, or has an attached carport, garage or a boat house with living quarters above, you are vulnerable to carbon monoxide (CO).
· Carbon Monoxide is known as the silent killer because you can’t see, smell or taste it. The only way to detect it is to have at least one CSA-approved CO alarm installed. Continuous Display alarms, that show a “zero” when CO is not present, are a top consumer choice.
· Check local bylaws - many cottage country municipalities now make mandatory CO alarms for homes and cottages.
· Replace any CO alarms over seven years old – CO alarms do not last forever!
· Know the warning signs – CO poisoning causes flu-like symptoms without the fever…such as fatigue, headaches and nausea.
For more tips on how to make your cottage and woodlands more Fire and CO smart visit http://safeathome.ca/pieceofheaven/index.html