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Tiffany Bars

Once in a while you come across a story that makes you marvel at how resilient people can be and how someone can turn a tragedy in their life into something positive. On January 26th, 2009 Calgary resident Ernie Halliday lost his stepdaughter Tiffany in a blaze that took three lives, the fire which was started by a space heater occurred in a basement apartment. The main reason why three lives were lost was that there were burglar bars on the windows which resulted in the occupants being trapped without a secondary escape route, a more horrible scene cannot be imagined. Since the tragedy, Ernie has turned his sorrow into constructive energy and took it upon himself to come up with a solution so that no other family should have to deal with heartbreak such as this. In today’s society he realized that burglar bars, especially for basement apartments are necessary, but couldn’t there be a way of making them removable in emergency situations? Well Ernie didn’t only make them removable, he has come up with a way for the burglar bars to fold down into a ladder which will make getting through the window easier and faster. His product is called “Tiffany Bars” which are named after his late stepdaughter. Ernie is hoping to have the product commercially available this summer, if this is something that is of interest to you, check out his website; http://www.tiffanybars.com/


Ernie’s story does raise some very serious issues with not only basement apartments, but also with basement bedrooms. During our spring smoke alarm inspections we often come across homes with basement bedrooms, our primary concern and one that is mandated by law is to be certain that a working smoke alarm is located near the bedroom. However there are many other concerns that are unfortunately not required by law. Is there a viable secondary escape route from the bedroom, such as a window? Is the window large enough for a person to use as an escape route? Will the window be free of snow in the winter or will it be blocked? Or are there burglar bars on the window? In the event of a fire it is imperative that a person living or sleeping in a basement is provided with a viable secondary escape route, unfortunately in many cases this is not the case. Also is the closest smoke alarm interconnected with others in the home? This too is often not the case, however there are now battery powered smoke alarms that interconnect wirelessly, this is an excellent option to ensure the occupant will be aware of a smoke alarm sounding on any level of the home, remember this person likely has the least amount of options for escape, so early warning is a must.


Basement apartments and bedrooms need special attention to ensure that they do not pose serious risks in a fire. If you have one, take some time and see if there are viable secondary escape routes and adequate smoke alarm coverage, a life could depend on it. 


Published in the Russell Villager - February 3, 2010

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