Seasonal residents may be choosing to stay longer and live in their cottage for the first time this winter due to COVID-19. The Huntsville/Lake of Bays Fire Department is urging all residents to keep fire safety in mind as they prepare for the fall and winter seasons ahead.
“Residents should keep in mind that access to many seasonal vacation homes can be severely limited during the winter months, as many of these properties are served by private roads and lane ways, which are not maintained by the municipality,” said Huntsville/Lake of Bays Fire Department Chief Rob Collins. “Response times can be considerably longer during the winter months due to winter road and weather conditions. Residents should take extra precautions if they’re occupying seasonal homes during the winter months.”
Chief Collins said it’s important to be proactive instead of reactive when it comes to emergency planning.
“Living in a rural location means that help is simply going to be delayed in the case of any emergency. Our firefighters are volunteer and respond from their homes or work to their fire hall when a call comes in. EMS staffing is reduced during the winter months, when the number of residents typically decreases. It becomes much more important to be safe, knowing that any kind of emergency is automatically more serious before assistance arrives,” he said. “We know how quickly a small fire can grow and spread, and if it’s going to take longer for the fire department to arrive it becomes more important to prevent fires from starting. Similarly, because medical help may take longer to arrive, it is extremely important to be cautious and aware of hazards.”
Emergency planning includes being self-sufficient.
“People living in rural locations need to be able to be self-sufficient for longer periods of time,” said Chief Collins. “Severe winter weather can cause road closures, residents to be without hydro and a means of communication for days on end, so residents need to be able to take care of themselves for however long it takes to get roads and communications re-opened. A good supply of essentials including food, water and medications is critically important.”
Below are some points to keep in mind for the upcoming fall and winter seasons.
Many seasonal homes are located on private roads or accessed via long private driveways; these are not maintained by the town and are typically not accessible in the winter months, unless maintained by a private contractor. Private roads and lane ways need to be maintained during the winter months in order to ensure access for emergency vehicles. Roads should be cleared to provide wide enough access to accommodate large emergency vehicles. Fire trucks and ambulances require more clearance than a typical car or truck. Roadways must also be salted or sanded to prevent dangerous ice conditions, and care should be taken to clear drifts during windy conditions. Finally, 911 signs should be kept visible in order to prevent response delays. Please ensure that you know your 911 address in case you need to call for help.
Residents are required to have a 911 sign.
Huntsville residents can contact Margaret Stead to confirm their 911 address before purchasing a sign through the fire department. Stead can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 705-789-1751 ext. 2243. Lake of Bays residents can contact Mirella Lisi, for a 911 sign. She can be reached at 705-635-2271 ext. 243 or email@example.com
Smoke and CO alarms:
Residents should ensure that the home has the correct number of smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms, and that they are properly located, regularly tested and properly maintained. The Ontario Fire Code requires smoke alarms to be installed on every storey of your home and outside all sleeping areas. Carbon monoxide alarms are required outside all sleeping areas if the home has a fuel-burning appliance, a fireplace or an attached
garage. Please call your local fire department if you have any questions or concerns about your alarms.
Extra care should be taken when dealing with fuel-fired appliances, including fireplaces and wood stoves, as well as natural gas or propane furnaces, and other fuel-fired appliances such as kerosene heaters.
Wood-burning stoves and fireplaces should be professionally inspected annually, and the chimneys cleaned regularly. Ashes should be kept outside and away from the home, in a metal container.
Exhaust vents for gas furnaces and water heaters need to be kept clear of snow and ice accumulations. A blocked exhaust vent can cause dangerous build-up of carbon monoxide in the home. Fuel-fired heaters should only be used in properly ventilated areas.
Generators should never be operated inside a building, as this can cause an unsafe build-up of carbon monoxide.
Winter storm events are common, and could mean that you may be unable to leave your home for extended periods. Residents should prepare a 72-hour emergency kit in case of such an occurrence. This should include a supply of food and water, as well as an adequate supply of medications you may need. More information on emergency planning and 72-hour kits is available on the Government of Ontario’s emergency preparedness site. Residents are also encouraged to research and create a self-rescue plan as well as finding emergency transportation options in their area. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is a great resource in learning to create your own escape plan. Click here for more information.
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