The Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC), which is the national trade association for more than 90% of the Canadian private property and casualty insurance industry, the Canada Safety Council and many other organizations want Canadians to take a few minutes to think about home safety and make sure their families are protected as they celebrate their holidays.

Safety-conscious organizations suggest your holiday preparations should include these safety precautions:

  • Practice your fire drill routes out of the house should fire strike. If you don't have clear escape plans, make them. This may be the best gift you give your family. Ensure all members of the family know what to do if they hear an alarm. This includes knowing the fastest way out of the home, and who will assist children and anyone with mobility problems.
  • Check the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) detectors. Change the batteries at least twice a year. If you don't do this when you change the clocks for Daylight Savings, why not include this in your December celebrations and on Canada Day (July 1). Do not use rechargeable batteries as they die suddenly and will not give a warning alarm.
  • Check that you have enough smoke detectors (at least one on every level), and that they are distributed (near sleeping areas) so as to protect all inhabitants of the home.
  • If you have only one CO detector, install it at knee height near the sleeping area. It is a good idea to have a second detector near your furnace or heat source and one on each level of your home. Test CO detectors at least once a month.
  • Keep household chemicals -- such as butane, nail polish remover, rubbing alcohol, and propane -- away from your CO detector. Over time, these could affect the sensing device, which could lead to false alarms.
  • Be sure that flashlights and fire extinguishers are in working order.
  • Move fire hazards like matches, lighters, candles and heaters out of harm's way.
  • Follow the manufacturer's instructions in the owner's manual, or use the care guide for maintenance and use of your gas fireplace. A fireplace should be inspected before use and checked annually by a qualified professional service person. Young children should be carefully supervised when they are in a room with a fireplace. Clothing or other flammable material should not be placed on or near the fireplace.

    Still looking for that last minute "perfect" gift?

    Carbon Monoxide Detectors may not be sexy or fun, but they are a caring gift that may save lives.

    Carbon monoxide (CO) is a silent killer. Colorless, odorless and tasteless, it can invade your home without warning. As you breathe it in, the CO displaces the oxygen you need to survive. It quickly accumulates in your bloodstream, forming a toxic compound called carboxyhemoglobin (car-box-see-HEE-muh-glow-bin). Even in small quantities it can cause headaches, nausea, dizziness, irregular breathing, sleepiness, and confusion. In larger concentrations it leads to unconsciousness and death.

    A properly installed CO detector can alert you to the presence of carbon monoxide. If the alarm sounds, GET OUT OF THE HOME QUICKLY. Call the fire department from another location and ask them to check your home for the presence of carbon monoxide.

    Wherever there is incomplete combustion, there will be carbon monoxide. Some causes of carbon monoxide poisoning in the home include:

    • A defective chimney
    • Improperly installed gas appliances (for example, a stove, cook top, or clothes dryer)
    • Car running in an attached garage
    • Barbecue used in an enclosed area
    • Gas or wood-burning fireplace
    • Corroded or disconnected vent pipe
    • Blocked vent
    • Cracked heat exchanger
    • Portable heater (for example, one fueled by gas, propane or kerosene).

    Shopping tips:

  • Look for the CSA mark, which indicates that the unit complies with recognized safety standards.
  • Contact your local municipal office or fire department to confirm local standards and requirements.
  • Louder is better since that annoying noise could save a life.
  • Choose a suitable power source for your purposes: battery operated, plug-in, or hardwired. Some plug-in or hardwired models have a battery backup so that the alarm will sound even if the electrical power is shut off.

    Have a safe holiday!

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