As in year’s past the Russell Fire Department conducted a door to door survey this past spring which also included inspections of smoke alarms, this year we covered the south / east sector which included the following streets; Chartrand, Du Parc & Sujack. In all 214 homes were visited and we were able to inspect over 80% of these homes. One of the more disturbing trends we found this year was the number of people who were not aware of the current smoke alarm laws, in years past we have seen a steady decline in the amount of people unaware of the law, this year was the opposite. This year 20% of the people surveyed did not know the current law, the highest number we have seen since the current law came into affect in 2006. We also had the highest number of non-compliant homes; 21% of the homes entered did not meet the requirements of the smoke alarm law, the most common reason being that they did not have an alarm on each level of the home; 53% of all non-compliant issues. Fortunately we did not find a single home without at least one working smoke alarm in the home, the most severe type of non-compliant issues and one where a fine would be issued. On the good news side of the survey, we found an all time high for homes that have ever practiced an escape plan; 43% of the homes entered claimed that they have practiced an escape plan in the past, unfortunately only 10% did so in the last six months. We contribute this to the high number of homes with children under the age of 16; 53% of the homes visited had children under 16 and over half of these homes had practiced escape planning. This is likely a result of the strong program we provide in the schools. The other end of the age spectrum also provided some interesting statistics, residents over the age of 65 had the highest occurrence of non-compliant homes. 35% of the homes visited with seniors were found to be non-compliant, a trend which we find very troubling but not surprising. This has been the trend we have been seeing in years past, however the difference is usually 2 to 8 percentage points, this year seniors were 14% above the area average.
The statistics gathered during these surveys are very helpful when we establish strategies for our public education program. We obviously need to remind the public about the laws in a stronger fashion than we have in the past few years, finding 20% of our residents unaware of the smoke alarm laws was needless to say disappointing. Fortunately we now know that these same homes are aware of the laws because of the visits made by our firefighters.