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Improving fire safety at senior residences

By Valerie MacDonald, Northumberland Today


The Ontario government wants public input about improving fire safety in facilities that house seniors, those with disability and other vulnerable people. At the same time the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit is urging people to consider their health when promoting the benefits of smoke-free apartments, condos and townhouses with plans to lobby landlords and tenants. The push is also targeting social housing.

"We will be introducing a 'no-smoking' policy in all our social housing units, hopefully by April of this year," says Northumberland County's social services and housing director Mark Darroch. "(And) we are working with the health unit, and will be speaking with all tenants on the process of this policy."

Fire plans are already in place at such county residences, he noted.

The county is also going to be "working with local fire departments (to organize) fire safety talks with our senior tenants and include fire safety tips with our news letters to all tenants," he said.

The provincial Smoke-Free Ontario Act only targets, at this time, common areas in multiple housing facilities such as lobbies and elevators and not individual housing units, notes the local health unit's health promoter, Doreen Boville. The current campaign to extend that is in reaction to the fact that one third of people who live in multi-unit housing are regularly exposed to secondhand smoke while 80% surveyed by the Ontario Smoke-Free Housing Coalition said they would like to live in a smoke-free building.

"And they are within their legal rights to do so," she said in a recent interview.

Smoke-free buildings reduce the risk of fire, a distinct advantage to landlords.

The health unit is reaching out to landlords and tenants, but not pushing them, Boville also said.

At the same time, under proposed provincial government legislative changes targeting multiple housing units for older, disabled and vulnerable people, mandatory sprinklers would be phased in over the next five years at all existing retirement and care residences. New retirement homes would include mandatory sprinklers among other fire safety improvements.

You can comment on the proposed changes until Feb. 28 at

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