Smoke alarm push targets insurance renewal

B.C. fire chiefs eye new campaign tactic to push residential fire safety

Surrey Fire Chief Len Garis is president of the Fire Chiefs' Association of B.C.

Anyone buying or renewing home insurance should be compelled by law to first declare they have a working smoke alarm.

That’s the legislative change now being sought by the Fire Chiefs Association of B.C. (FCABC) in the latest phase of their campaign to get working smoke alarms into every home in the province.

The proposed change to B.C.’s Insurance Act has backing from the City of Nelson and Cariboo Regional District and FCABC president Len Garis expects other cities and regions to endorse it.

“We don’t expect insurance companies to enforce the working smoke alarm declarations,” Surrey’s fire chief said. “The intent is to use insurance renewals to educate the public about the importance of working smoke alarms.”

Garis noted insurance companies have a vested interest in ensuring homes they insure are safe from fire, crime and other hazards, and routinely offer discounts based on risk.

A multi-agency drive with corporate support has been underway since 2012 to hand out free smoke alarms to vulnerable residents, particularly First Nations and the elderly.

Nearly 70 per cent of B.C. homes that caught fire from 2006 to 2011 did not have a functioning smoke alarm. The FCABC estimates a working smoke alarm in every B.C. home could reduce annual fire deaths by 32 per cent and notes residential fire fatalities are already down sharply in the first year of the effort.

More than 21,000 donated smoke alarms have been handed out with the help of campaign sponsors, including Kidde Canada, Black Press, Super Save Group, Shaw Cable and the federal aboriginal affairs department.

For more on the campaign see www.workingsmokealarms.ca.