Toronto Fire Services has launched a home inspection program with the overall goal of reducing fire deaths to zero in the city of Toronto. The Toronto program is very similar to the yearly home inspection we run in Russell, however on a much larger scale. Toronto Fire Services acknowledges that it will take several years to cover the entire city but they are starting the program by targeting areas that statistically have higher numbers of fire related fatalities. The Toronto program is a great challenge for a large city, however this too can be said for the program in Russell. Fortunately we have already achieved the Toronto goal of zero fire related deaths and have done so for a number of years. But the same can be said about many small communities throughout Ontario, some of which have active public education programs whereas others don’t. Some of this is directly related to the demographics of the community and even a little bit of dumb luck. Many smaller communities don’t have to deal with the poverty problem found in large cities and unfortunately there is a direct link to economic wealth and incidents of fire within any community. Simply put, a poor person is more likely to die in a fire than a wealthy person. Obvious economic advantages can explain why this is the case, however it is a reality that large cities have to deal with, and in Toronto’s case makes “Project Zero” a difficult goal to achieve, especially considering the economic turn down we are presently experiencing.
The Russell Fire Department has had a very active public education program for many years. Our findings confirm that our residents are very well versed about issues associated with fire safety and that a great majority of people fully comply with the laws concerning smoke alarms. Looking at the statistics from our yearly surveys one might even say we have peaked when it come to compliance. Our numbers over the last few years show that on average 85% of homes in Russell comply with the law, leaving only 15% of non-compliant homes. In most cases the non-compliant issues are small infractions of the law, usually it just requires the home owner to install one more smoke alarm in an area that requires coverage. Only less than 3% of Russell Homes are found to be in gross negligence; no smoke alarm in the home. These statistics are good and most areas would be relieved to have these findings, however we still feel that more can be done. Toronto is trying to achieve zero fire related deaths, in Russell we would like to see zero infractions. While this goal may not be realistically achievable, we can at least try to get as close as possible.