Surrey smokes competition at fire awards

City beats out 9,000 other local governments in winning honours for HomeSafe smoke alarm strategy.

A recent smoke alarm strategy implemented in Surrey has garnered  global praise.

Last week, the City of Surrey received an international award for its approach to fire prevention through a targeted smoke alarm giveaway program that has significantly reduced fires and fire losses in the city.

Surrey was awarded a 2013 Community Health and Safety Program Excellence Award by the International City/County Management Association (ICMA), which represents 9,000 local government managers around the world, for its HomeSafe program. Surrey is the only Canadian city on this year’s recipient list.

Launched in 2008, HomeSafe uses local fire and demographic data to target fire hot spots for door-to-door firefighter visits and smoke alarm giveaways. Formal evaluation of its first two years showed a 64-per-cent reduction in the annual rate of fires for HomeSafe houses – approximately 4.4 times greater than the reduction (15 per cent) observed in other high-risk homes over the same period.

The program also cut fire losses in half, increased smoke alarm activations by 169 per cent, and reduced fire size and spread.

HomeSafe identifies Surrey neighbourhoods with the greatest fire risk and to date has sent firefighters to more than 40,000 homes to educate residents about fire safety and offer to install a free smoke alarm. The cost-effective program leverages existing resources and community sponsorship, and can be easily adapted by other communities.

The ICMA’s Community Health and Safety Program Excellence Awards recognize local government programs or processes that demonstrate innovation, excellence, and success in the community’s safety, health and/or wellness, including enhancement in the quality of life for the disadvantaged.

Surrey will receive its award at the ICMA annual conference in Boston, Mass. in September.

Surrey’s HomeSafe program has also served as a launching point for a province-wide working smoke alarm campaign, coordinated by the Fire Chiefs’ Association of B.C. and supported by the provincial government.

Launched in March 2012, the campaign is already exceeding expectations, with 44 per cent fewer residential fire deaths and 5.1 per cent fewer residential fires reported in its first year.

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