EDITORIAL: Increasing our odds of survival

Statistics have proven the value of ensuring we have working smoke alarms in our homes.

The reminder couldn’t be more tragic.

A 52-year-old man died Friday morning after a fire broke out in his South Surrey RV.

The cause of the blaze has yet to be disclosed, although police do not suspect foul play.

But Surrey firefighters were quick to say the tragedy highlights something we all know – or should know by now – and that’s the importance of ensuring we have working smoke alarms in our homes.

According to assistant fire Chief Steve Robinson, a working smoke alarm increases our odds of escaping a fire by 74 per cent.

A recent study shows many of us are taking the message to heart – fatalities from residential fires dropped by 65 per cent in B.C. last year, with much credit for the decrease attributed to a campaign that launched in 2012 that focussed on raising awareness of using smoke alarms.

But despite those statistics, the fact is, too many of us continue to gamble – intentionally or otherwise – with our lives and those of our loved ones.

Perhaps it’s the “it won’t happen to me” mentality that prevents some of us from taking the step.

Perhaps none of us have lost anyone to fire, so the chance it could happen in our homes – could injure or kill our children, our spouses, even our pets – doesn’t even come to mind.

Financial cost of the added safety is certainly not prohibitive; consider for a moment how many of us spend $5 twice a week for a one-in-14-million chance of winning the Lotto 6/49 jackpot.

It’s a much riskier gamble to put a smoke-alarm purchase (many cost less than $20) on the back burner.

A study of residential structure fires in B.C. from 2006 to 2011 showed that 79 per cent of 170 fire-related deaths occurred in homes without a working smoke alarm – emphasizing the fact it’s also not enough just to have an alarm; we must routinely check it to ensure it’s working.

Further wiping out any excuse for delaying installation is the offer by Surrey firefighters to put one in for free in homes currently unprotected by such a device.

It’s a fact that we can’t 100 per cent prevent a fire. And the reality is, there’s no guarantee if a fire breaks out in our homes, that we’ll get out alive.

But why lessen those odds of survival?