Working Smoke Alarms Saves Lives

March 22, 2012

Ministry of Justice
Office of the Fire Commissioner
City of Surrey 

  Smoke-alarm campaign to save lives in BC

VICTORIA – BC Minister of Justice and Attorney General Shirley Bond and the President of the Fire Chiefs’ Association of BC, Surrey Fire Chief Len Garis have launched a smoke alarm campaign intended to ensure that every home in BC has a working smoke alarm, part of a broad initiative to reduce fire-related deaths and injuries.

Research done by Surrey Fire Services, in partnership with the University of the Fraser Valley, shows that almost 70 per cent of houses that caught fire did not have a functioning smoke alarm. The research predicts that working smoke alarms could reduce annual fire deaths by as much as 32 per cent.The research findings also indicate the province’s most vulnerable populations – such as children and the elderly – face the highest risk of dying in a residential fire.

The new campaign is a sustained, co-ordinated approach to ensure BC homes have a functioning smoke alarm. The Fire Chiefs’ Association of BC and the Office of the Fire Commissioner will lead a steering committee of stakeholders on the local, provincial and national level, with a focus on the Three E’s of Injury Prevention - education, environment and enforcement. 

Some components of the campaign are:

  • A national injury reduction forum to be held Oct 12, 2012, hosted by Surrey Fire Service with the Canadian Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons.
  • A call to action on behalf of local fire departments to address this issue in their communities
  • Developing interagency partnerships to maximize the protection offered by smoke alarms to the most disadvantaged members of society
  • Targeting engagement with BC First Nations
  • Working with multi-residential building managers to maximize protection within these residences
  • Exploring the potential to develop a school-based curriculum for fire-prevention
  • Exploring the potential to utilize the insurance act to compel annual testing of smoke alarms upon policy renewal
  • Working with federal politicians to create a national smoke alarm day
  • Encourage federal politicians to focus on design changes to smoke alarms to address design deficiencies that enable them to be disconnected and also mean they can become non-functioning without alerting residents 

The campaign is gathering a growing number of supporters, including the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs, the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, and others.

Further details about the campaign will be publicized as it rolls out during 2012. Information about the campaign will be available at


Minister of Justice and Attorney General Shirley Bond –

 “Our government is committed to improving the safety of British Columbians, and the research shows us that smoke alarms play a critical role in saving lives and protecting property. At the end of the day, we want every home to have a working smoke alarm. It’s a goal we should have for all Canadian homes, and we plan to lead by example in our province.”

Len Garis, President, Fire Chiefs’ Association of BC / City of Surrey Fire Chief -

“This is a very poor report card on the state of functioning smoke alarms in our province and country. As a fire service, we now have the opportunity to work together and make a real difference on this important safety issue. We’ve tackled this issue before, but this time we’ll be looking for permanent, sustainable solutions.”

Dianne Watts, Mayor, City of Surrey –

“The City of Surrey and the University of the Fraser Valley reviewed 20 years of fire data and the results show that having a functioning smoke alarm saves lives, reduces injuries and prevents excessive property damage.  If Surrey residents don’t have a working alarm, the Surrey Fire Service will install a free battery operated smoke alarm for them.” 

Mark Evered, President and Vice-Chancellor, University of Fraser Valley –

“We are pleased that the work of our faculty and students demonstrated so clearly the vital importance of establishing a smoke alarm campaign.  Lives will be saved because of this community-focused applied research.” 

 Quick Facts:

  • Data from the Office of the Fire Commissioner shows that in 11,000 residential fires in B.C. from 2006 to 2011, nearly 70 per cent of the fire scenes examined either had no smoke alarm or the smoke alarm was not working.
  • According to the UFV study, there is a greater risk of fatality from residential structure fires for households with young children, older adults or people with disabilities; rental units; and households in low-income areas, rural communities and First Nations reserves.
  • The UFV study extrapolates that 69 deaths across Canada could be prevented each year if all Canadian homes had working smoke alarms.
  • The UFV study can be found at:$!2c_But_not_Forever.pdf

Media Contact:
Ministry of Justice
Government Communications
and Public Engagement
250 356.6961


Call to Action : - encouraging fire departments to get                                                                                             involved

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