Fire safety starts with a plan


PHOTO BY CARMEN MARIE FABIO

Hudson Fire Department Prevention Division Captain Kris Sodo is inviting families to plan and practice their home evacuation plan in time for the Wednesday, October 12 Grande evacuation across the province.

From the time children reach their early formative age, parents are typically obsessed with teaching them every safety lesson from how to cross the street to being aware of, and not speaking to, strangers, but they often miss a critical teaching opportunity – one that could save them and the entire family.

While smoke detectors and fire extinguishers are necessary for every home, having a fire evacuation plan and practicing it regularly is as important a tool in saving lives.

October 9 to 15 is Fire Prevention Week in Quebec and the perfect time to hone your plan, practice it with family members, and execute it the night of ‘La grande evacuation’ next October 12.

“Believe it or not, a lot of people still don’t have evacuation plans and don’t practice it with their kids,” said Hudson Fire Department Prevention Division Captain Kris Sodo. “A lot of kids sleep through their smoke detectors. They don’t realize what it is.”

Even kids who do recognize the sound may not know how to immediately react. An evacuation plan teaches all family members not just how to get out of the home, but what to do in certain situations, including what measures to take if the bedroom door is hot to the touch and can’t be opened.

“The evacuation plan is phase one,” said Sodo. “The second phase is the ‘Point de rassemblement.’ When everyone knows how to get out of the house, where do they meet?” Sodo said the importance of this step is not only for family members to know everyone is safe, and that no one needs to go back inside the burning house to rescue anyone, but to relay that information to firefighters responding to the scene. “Choose a place, like a tree or the end of the driveway, something everyone knows about.”

Firefighters’ tactics will change knowing all occupants are accounted for. “If not,” said Sodo, “that changes the whole dynamic of our response. Where’s the person, where were they last seen?”

Throughout the Fire Prevention Week, firefighters will be going door to door to speak to residents about the importance of working smoke detectors and having – and practicing – their own evacuation plans.

Hudson firefighters will be visiting the elementary schools and daycare centres to meet with the kids, an exercise both in educating them on fire safety and exposing them to a firefighter in full gear, helping to dispel any fears the kids may have and helping them recognize who is there to help in an actual emergency scenario.

“The preschool kids are given a colourful poster that shows a smoke detector beeping and pictograms on fire safety in the home,” said Sodo. “We also make a smoke detector go off so kids can recognize the sound.” Kids are given a pamphlet to bring home to their parents to help draft up their own evacuation plans. Older kids in elementary schools are given additional information on what signs to look for in the event of a house fire and what, if any, immediate measures can be taken, such as blocking out smoke seeping under the door with a rolled up towel.

Leading up to Fire Prevention Week, firefighters have been visiting area homes to ensure a functioning smoke detector is installed on every floor and that the units, with a working life of no more than 10 years, are up to date. Additional information on homes’ respective heating systems is taken to ensure firefighters have up-to-date information on the home in the event of a fire. In the presence of an oil-burning furnace, a woodstove, or an attached garage, it’s a recommendation to have a carbon monoxide (CO) detector, ideally installed outside a home’s sleeping area. Proper chimney sweeping and maintenance is also discussed.

“While we’re doing the residential inspection, we talk to residents about the importance of having their evacuation plans and assembly plans,” said Sodo.

Twice a year, the department shows up at schools and daycare centres to pull the alarm to test their evacuation plans in conjunction with principals and daycare directors.

With evacuation plan instructions distributed through school visits, the firefighters will be heading out with their trucks’ sirens wailing and lights flashing on Wednesday, October 12, starting around 6:30 p.m. for ‘La grande évacuation’ to allow families to exercise their own escape plan at the sound of the siren.

“It’s a big endeavour at the beginning but if you just practice as often as you can, it becomes second nature,” said Sodo. “It’s a small insurance plan to make sure you and your kids get out safely.”

The Hudson Fire Department will be having an open house Saturday, October 15, 529 Main Road between 9 a.m. and 12 p.m. for fire safety information and truck tours for the kids. Any questions can be forwarded to prevention@ville.hudson.qc.ca.

St. Lazare Fire Department open house will take place Saturday, October 8, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 1800 Bédard Avenue.

Pincourt Fire Department open house will take place Saturday, October 15, from 12 to 4 p.m. at 701 Cardinal-Léger Boulevard.

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