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Surrey Receives International Award for Fire Prevention

June 10, 2013

Surrey, BC – Surrey has received an international award for its evidence-based approach to fire prevention and 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 for its Evidence-Based Fire Reduction Strategy and HomeSafe program by the International City/County Management Association (ICMA), which represents 9,000 local government managers around the world. 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 hotspots for door-to-door firefighter visits and smoke alarm giveaways. Formal evaluation of its first two years showed a 64% reduction in the annual rate of fires for HomeSafe houses – approximately 4.4 times greater than the reduction (15%) observed in other high-risk homes over the same period. The program also cut fire losses in half, increased smoke alarm activations by 169%, and reduced fire size and spread. “The Evidence-Based Fire Reduction Strategy is an example of how investment in innovative research and strategic partnerships lead to measureable results,” says Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts. “HomeSafe demonstrates Surrey Fire Service’s continued dedication to increasing the safety of Surrey residents.”

A core component of Surrey’s Evidence-Based Fire Reduction Strategy, HomeSafe is based on research by the University of the Fraser Valley (UFV) examining nearly 5,000 structure fires in Surrey over a 20-year period. This research found that certain people, properties and neighbourhoods have a greater fire risk than others as a consequence of factors such as age, family structure and lifestyle.

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.

HomeSafe’s formal evaluation, published in the March 2012 edition of the Journal of Safety Research, was authored by Dr. Joseph Clare of Surrey Fire Service and the University of Western Australia, Fire Chief Len Garis of Surrey Fire Service and the UFV, Dr. Darryl Plecas of the UFV, and Dr. Charles Jennings of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York.

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, Massachusetts in September.

Surrey’s Evidence-Based Fire Reduction Strategy has also served as a launching point for a province-wide working smoke alarm campaign, coordinated by the Fire Chiefs’ Association of BC and supported by the provincial government. Launched in March 2012, the campaign is already exceeding expectations, with 44% fewer residential fire deaths and 5.1% fewer residential fires reported in its first year.


For program information:

Len Garis

Fire Chief, Surrey Fire Services

Mayor’s Office Media Contact:

Judy Mann
Executive Assistant, Office of the Mayor