Windsor smoke alarm program makes homes safer, not compliant
Windsor Fire and Rescue’s Wake Up Windsor program hands out thousands of smoke detectors every year but it doesn’t leave every home it visits compliant with the Ontario Fire Code.
Last year, Windsor firefighters started canvassing the city looking for homes in need of smoke detectors. The department hands out one smoke detector per residence.
The law states every home in Ontario must have a working smoke alarm on every storey and outside all sleeping areas.
It’s up to home owners and landlords to follow the law.
"Smoke alarm program is a public education program not an enforcement program. It's about educating homeowners about why its important to protect themselves," chief Bruce Montone said.
Windsor Fire and Rescue only provides one smoke detector per home. Should a home need three detectors, the fire department will also leave coupons for discounted smoke detectors purchased in Windsor.
“It’s ultimately the owner’s responsibility to be compliant. We’ll provide them outside the sleeping area,” said John Lee, Windsor Fire and Rescue’s assistant chief fire prevention officer. “We don’t want to be the ones installing them and providing them throughout. We want people to know what they need to do and to make sure they do it themselves.”
Once the department installs the one smoke alarm it provides free of charge, there is no follow-up visit to see if the home owner has used the coupons left behind.
Lee said home owners "are not left with a false sense security and are fully aware” they, and not the fire department, are responsible for ensuring the entire residence is compliant with the Ontario Fire Code.
Last year, the fire department paid $18,000 on smoke detectors, batteries, drills and other equipment needed to start the program.
Of that $18,000 Lee said the department bought 3,000 smoke detectors for $5.50 each and spent another $1,000 on batteries.
"Smoke alarms are provided by sponsorship not tax payer dollars, which is important," Montone said.
Firefighters inspected 8,800 homes and installed smoke alarms or batteries at 2,540 of them.
Lee called the noncompliance rate in Windsor “alarmingly high.”
Another 6,300 homes were inspected this year. The program wrapped up Monday this week.
Despite not leaving every home compliant, Lee called the program a success.
Lee said Windsor Fire and Rescue surveyed some big box stores in Windsor and found an increase in the sales of smoke detectors since the Wake Up Windsor program started last year.
He claims Windsor’s two Home Depots had a 31 per cent sales increase while the three Canadian Tire stores in Windsor saw increased sales of 33, 34 and 195 per cent.
Twice since the program started last year, Windsor Fire and Rescue says its smoke detector program likely saved life.
Monday, fire broke out in the basement at 2040 Ferndale.
Fire crews had just installed an alarm in basement bedroom June 12, Lee said.
“The fire did occur in the basement in the area of the smoke alarm. People got out safely. Without that [alarm], I’m not sure,” Lee said.
In August of last year, a senior escaped an early-morning fire at 397 McEwan Ave after he heard the smoke alarm Windsor Fire and Rescue installed two months prior.
“We have every confidence we’re making our community safer with our Wake Up program, but to have direct proof like this means a great deal to us,” Montone said.