Whether a brand-new custom home or a well-loved character property, new-to-you homes bring a learning curve. It takes time to get to know how the garden grows through the year, how the light changes from season to season, and yes, how the home “works.”
An essential part of getting to know your new home – and something to consider when home-shopping – is safety, and Oak Bay Fire Department is the go-to local expert. The department’s Fire Prevention division welcomes queries from homeowners about how to make their properties safer, from electrical and heating concerns to earthquake preparedness.
Prevention starts with the home’s basic operations. “If electrical systems and equipment are not well-maintained, they become fire hazards,” says Capt. Rob Kivell.
Safety tips from the department include not overloading electrical outlets or extension cords and disconnecting a device if you feel a tingle when touching it, it emits a burning smell, or it blows a fuse. Immediately replace cracked or frayed electrical cords or those that get hot during use.
If a fuse blows or a circuit breaker trips, try to find out why. Ensure the new fuse is the right size and amperage. Fuses and circuit breakers protect you; don’t tamper with them. Electrical appliances should be ULC labelled and appliances not working correctly should be repaired by a qualified professional.
Oak Bay homes have a wide range of heating options. It’s important to understand yours and the regular maintenance required to keep it running at its best and safest.
Inspect your chimney regularly for cracks and obstructions and don’t let creosote build up in your chimney, Kivell advises.
Don’t “over-build” a fire using too much paper and never burn charcoal as it gives off deadly carbon monoxide. With hot ashes in your fireplace, keep the damper open; closing it could allow hot ashes to heat up and cause a fire. Let ashes cool in a sealed metal container.
All vented, fuel-burning equipment must be vented outside and kept clear and unobstructed to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning, Kivell notes. Created when fuels burn incompletely, carbon monoxide poisoning can cause illness and death.
Inside, install and maintain carbon monoxide alarms.
Have a service person inspect chimneys, fireplaces, wood stoves and furnaces yearly and clean when necessary.
Install alarms on every level of your home (including the basement) and especially in every sleeping area (read more about this next week). Plan and practice two escape routes from each room.
Basements and garages can present a variety of safety challenges. Gasoline, if needed, should be stored in small quantities in a ULC-listed gasoline safety can outside the home or in a detached garage. Always store paint and other flammable liquids in original labelled containers with tight-fitting lids; use and store flammable liquids well away from appliances, heaters, pilot lights, cigarettes and other sources of heat.
In the laundry room, have your clothes dryer installed and serviced by a professional. Do not use the dryer without a lint trap, which must be cleaned before each use.
Remove lint collected around the drum and clean lint from the vent pipe quarterly or more often if it’s taking longer for clothes to dry. Alternatively, call a dryer lint removal service.
Rigid or flexible metal venting should be used to sustain proper air flow and drying time to reduce the risk of fire or fire spread. Ensure the air exhaust vent pipe is not restricted and the outdoor vent flap opens when the dryer is on.
Ensure the right plug and wall outlet are used and keep dryer in good working order. Have gas dryers professionally inspected to ensure gas line and connection are intact and free of leaks.
For questions call Oak Bay Fire Prevention Division, 250-592-9121.