Coffee With a Firefighter promotes fire safety in homes

Coffee With a Firefighter promotes fire safety in homes
Niagara This Week

There’s something about sitting down to chat over a cup of hot java that gets people relaxed and talkative, and members of the Niagara Falls fire department took advantage of that casual atmosphere to spread a fire safety message on Friday.

As part of Fire Prevention Week, chief Jim Boutilier, fire prevention officer Mark Slinn and city firefighters were on hand at the McDonald’s restaurant adjacent to McLeod Road in the city’s south end to take part in the Coffee With a Firefighter event.
The initiative is a new partnership between McDonald’s and the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs to get people talking about ways to protect themselves and their families at home.
The Niagara Falls event was purposely kept casual and low key, with fire department personnel avoiding lecturing people.
Instead, they reminded people who stopped by to chat that Ontario law requires a working smoke detector on each storey of the home, and a working carbon monoxide detector outside of sleeping quarters in any home with an attached garage and/or a furnace, fireplace, water heater, dryer, stove or portable fuel-fired heater or generator.
“It’s an opportunity to drive these points home,” said Slinn.
Already this year, more than 70 people in Ontario have died from smoke- and fire-related events, he said. Fire officials say almost all such deaths are preventable through working alarms and having a home escape plan that’s regularly rehearsed.
Slinn said smoke alarms are crucial because by the time smoke from a fire reaches higher levels, it may already be too late for someone to escape.
Unlike the movies where fires in homes are clean burning, real house fires quickly result in complete darkness and zero visibility, he said.
Also unlike movies where fatalities involve people dying from flames, it’s choking smoke and hot gases that in the vast majority of cases are the killers, said Slinn.
“That can overcome people very quickly,” he said.
Carbon monoxide detectors are also critical because that poisonous gas released by incomplete combustion — which displaces oxygen in the bloodstream — often builds up gradually.
It’s odorless and colorless, so humans have no sense to detect it. Instead, as the gas builds up people start to experience flu-like symptoms such as dizziness, headache and nausea, said Slinn.
“People often go to lie down, thinking they’re safe,” said Slinn. Once that happens, they can pass out and perish.
Restaurant manager Joanna Shelton said the event was a brand new initiative between the restaurant chain and the fire chiefs' association.
“The whole purpose was to get the word out, making people aware of the need for smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors in their homes,” she said.