FIRE SMART: Vernon Fire Rescue raising alarm bells

People are being slow in response to fire alarm signals or are ignoring them completely

Vernon Fire Rescue Services has been experiencing what, to me, is an amazing phenomenon about fire alarm signal responses.

People are being slow in response to fire alarm signals or are ignoring them completely. In some cases, they are so focused on their busy lives they continue their activities, presume the alarm is false and do not take precious time to leave the premises.

Ironically, precious time is what that fire alarm gives them. Ignoring it is nothing more than a reckless gamble that affects the safety of everyone in that building. When occupants heed the fire alarm and move to safety, firefighters are then able to focus on controlling the fire.

There are four important objectives that fire alarm systems are designed to meet:

• Alert the occupants of a fire;

• Initiate prompt and immediate action;

• Initiate evacuation movement;

• Allow sufficient time to escape.

The degree to which these objectives are met when a fire alarm sounds appears to vary according to the building and who is in it. Schools appear to have a high degree of compliance to fire safety rules and procedures. It is quite a different story when a fire alarm sounds in a shopping centre, hotel, apartment or a high-rise office building.

Whether at work, on vacation, or at home, being familiar with the building you are in is necessary when it comes to hearing and recognizing the fire alarm when it sounds.

Research has proven that buildings with nuisance alarms cause occupants to lose confidence in the system and feed the belief that there is no reason to respond. It is critical that fire alarm systems are maintained so, when they sound, you will trust they are notifying you of a legitimate problem.

Whether the problem is a fire, burned toast, steam from the shower or a dusty or faulty detector, there is a problem. Like that aggravating buzzer that sounds when you don’t do up your seat belt, the fire alarm is warning you that something is wrong and could be threatening your safety.

If you consider staying, without knowing what the problem is, ask yourself, “Do I feel lucky today?” History has proven time and time again to be very tragic for the ones who have lost that bet.

As long as we have fires, one of our best defenses against them is still a properly maintained fire alarm system. It stands on guard around the clock and protects us through early warning which supplies time to make our escape to safety. Unless you are absolutely sure of the cause and know it is safe, the time to leave when a fire alarm sounds is now. Only when everyone is safely outside and the fire department declares it safe should you consider re-entering the building. After all, who better than the fire department to check whether it is safe to be in a building when the fire alarm goes off? It is what we are trained for and we have the equipment to do it safely.

Vernon Fire Rescue Services wants you to know that a fire alarm is something to take very seriously. Don’t take any chances. Treat every fire alarm as if it is warning you about a life threatening fire because it very well could be.

There is nothing so important in one’s life that it should come between you and your family’s safety. Please, err on the side of caution and get to safety when the fire alarm sounds because, believe me, there is no such thing as a false alarm when it comes to fire.

Lawrie Skolrood is a deputy fire chief with Vernon Fire Rescue Services