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Three simple ways to increase your family's odds of surviving a fire by 50 per cent

Smoke AlarmEach year, fires kill more than 300 Canadians, with some 10 per cent being children. Yet most people believe, "It won't happen to me."

To combat complacency, fire departments continue to advocate three simple and inexpensive steps Canadians can take to increase their family's odds of surviving a fire by 50 per cent.

1. Install and Maintain Smoke Alarms: The National Fire Protection Association recommends that one smoke alarm be installed on every storey and outside sleeping areas in your home - in fact, this is law in Ontario and other provinces have plans to follow suit.

If you sleep with doors closed, place alarms right in bedrooms. Always locate smoke alarms on ceilings or high on walls, since smoke rises. Make sure they are placed at least a hand's width away from corners and ceilings, and never install them near windows. Test batteries each month and replace them when you change your clocks, or if your alarm's low-battery warning sounds. To reduce dust build up on alarm sensors, vacuum unit lightly.

2. Never Tamper With Smoke Alarms: Surveys reveal that many Canadians continue the high-risk practice of removing batteries from their smoke alarms or removing the unit from the ceiling to silence a false alarm.

NEVER tamper with your smoke alarm! Firefighters report that in more than 50 per cent of fire deaths, smoke alarms were not installed or had been tampered with. To make it easy and safe to quiet nuisance alarms caused by cooking smoke or steam, only buy smoke alarms with a "Hush" feature. Pushing the "Hush" button silences it temporarily so you can clear the air, while still keeping your family protected in case a real fire breaks out.

3. Replace Worn Out Smoke Alarms: Contrary to popular belief, smoke alarms do not last forever! They wear out, even those hard-wired into your home's electrical system.

"The National Fire Protection Association says homeowners must replace their smoke alarms every 10 years," notes Carol Heller, a fire safety expert with Kidde Canada, the country's largest fire safety device manufacturer. "That's because the sensors used to detect smoke weaken over time, and, can become obscured by dust and other things in the air."

To determine the age of a smoke alarm, look for a date sticker on the outside or a manufactured date on the base. If you can't find either, replace the alarm immediately. Another telltale sign is the color, if the plastic has turned yellow, replace it.

More home fire safety tips and smoke alarm information can be found on the web site.