Fires are real, not just events in the news or movies. Fire is fast, hot, and spreads rapidly. It creates thick, black, toxic smoke that is even more deadly than flames. When fire strikes, seconds are important. Everyone needs to know what to do.
Smoke alarms provide the early warning of the problem and a home fire escape plan will provide time to escape safely.
This year's theme for Fire Prevention Week - which started Sunday and runs until Oct. 13 - is Have Two Ways Out.
The campaign focuses on how to plan and practise escaping from a home, should a fire occur.
Both Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows firefighters and local teachers have introduced a new tool to help kids and families be better prepared in case of fire called: cute and fuzzy bunny rabbits. The theme builds on a rabbit's instinct to always have at least two exits from its underground home leading to safety.
Although firefighters hope people never have to use it, planning and practising a home escape plan may one day save lives.
"An escape plan helps families respond more quickly and calmly when faced with a real fire situation. When a smoke alarm sounds, everyone needs to know what to do and where to go. Planning two ways out of each room, ahead of time, greatly increases your chances of getting out without injury," said fire chief Stephen Gamble, president of the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs.
Among the Have Two Ways Out activities will be a week of home fire escape lessons taught to students by their teachers, followed by homework assignments encouraging families to prepare and practise an escape plan.
The effort extends through the entire month of October.
Families can print out a free home escape plan from www.safeathome. ca/twowaysout. They can also watch for it in the Have Two Ways Out homework package, which was designed to help parents, teachers, and kids work hand in hand.
Families who register their completed plan online are rewarded with a Have Two Ways Out certificate and the chance to win more than $10,000 in prizes, including Kidde Escape Ladders, smoke alarms, and carbon monoxide alarms.
Teachers can also register their classrooms for a chance to win Domino's Pizza Parties, glow in dark Kidde Sparky smoke alarms, and Sparky the Fire Dog plush toys that speak fire safety messages.
Every evening during Fire Prevention Week, firefighters will accompany a Panago delivery driver on randomly selected orders made from 6 to 9 p.m.
If all of the customer's smoke alarms are working and they can demonstrate a family escape plan, their Panago order will be free. If not, after they pay for their Panago order, the firefighters will install a working smoke alarm for them and provide information about family escape planning.
All Maple Ridge students in kindergarten through Grade 3 will receive a booklet with activities to teach them about preventing home fires and escape planning with their family.
Once these activities are completed, teachers will give them an entry form to take home for a parent's signature and then be submitted to enter them in a draw for a laptop computer.
From the same entry forms, the Maple Ridge fire department will select one boy and one girl to be Fire Chief for a Day. Entries can be submitted to the school office or to Fire Hall #1. Contest closes Oct. 22.
An open house for the public takes place at Fire Hall #1 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 13.
In other news, on Saturday, Sept. 29, firefighters from Pitt Meadows were around the community raising funds for the Muscular Dystrophy Association of Canada.
The community answered the call for assistance and helped "fill their boots" with more than $5,600.
"Again some of our retired honorary members came out to help fundraise. It shows the strong feelings the members have for this cause," said chief Rob Chatton.
"We all enjoyed a visit from the two boys who live here in Pitt Meadows and are affected with a neuromuscular disorder. We all looked forward to their visit," he said.