Fire Prevention Week: Keep your cool when the alarm sounds

Have two ways out

Imagine waking up to hear your smoke alarm beeping. You are groggy, confused and scared. This is a time when many people panic and end up making serious – sometimes fatal – mistakes.

In fact, according to research from the Office of the Fire Commissioner, how a person reacts in a fire can be the difference between life and death. Approximately 20 per cent of people who died in a home fire in a ten-year period in Alberta did not act when the smoke alarm activated.

Make sure that everyone in your home knows exactly what to do when the alarm sounds or there is smoke or fire. A good escape plan that your family has practiced will help all to deal with a scary situation in a calm and safe manner.

  • Get out quickly if there is a fire because fire moves extremely fast. You may have only three minutes or less before the toxic smoke overtakes you (visit
  • Teach children to never hide in closets or under beds.
  • Choose two ways out of every room. If heat or smoke blocks the usual fire exit (door), then use the second way out (another door or a window).
  • Test doors before opening them:

* Feel the door and look for smoke coming in around the edges.

* If the door is not hot and there is no smoke coming in, open it slowly, but be prepared to slam it shut if heat or smoke rush in.

* If the door is hot, use your other exit.

  • If you must escape through smoke, get low and go under the smoke to the nearest exit. Smoke will rise to the ceiling, leaving cooler, cleaner air close to the floor.
  • Parents should take into account the limitations of young children, the elderly or disabled when planning a fire escape.
  • If you live in an apartment building and the smoke alarm goes off, only use the stairs. Never use an elevator.
  • Choose a family meeting spot, a safe distance away from the home. It can be as simple as meeting under a neighbour’s tree.
  • Practice, practice, practice. If your family has rehearsed various emergencies regularly, you will all know exactly what to do if the real thing occurs.

When you are making your escape plan, do not assume young children will be woken by a smoke alarm. According to recent research, children younger than 9 years old experience the deepest sleep of all groups studied. If you have young children at home, it is best to practice your home fire escape drill during sleeping hours. It is an adult’s responsibility to awaken young children during a fire emergency and get them out safely.

For more information on fire safety in Alberta, contact your municipality’s fire or emergency service or the Office of the Fire Commissioner at 1-800-421-6929, email or visit and click on the Public Education tab.