The week of October 9-15, 2016 is Fire Prevention Week. Since 1922, this event has been observed on the Sunday through Saturday period in which October 9 falls. It is an opportunity to alert and educate the public as to the importance of fire safety and each citizen’s role in fire prevention. Originally, it was a one day event celebrated on October 9, 1911 on the 40th anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire by the group known today as the International Fire Marshals Association. It is held to commemorate firefighters and to advance fire prevention awareness. The observance was extended to a week in a proclamation by President Calvin Coolidge in 1922 and is the longest running public health and safety event on record. Every President of the United States, since 1925, has signed a proclamation declaring a national observance during this week. The 2016 theme for Fire Prevention Week is “Don’t Wait – Check the Date! Replace Smoke Alarms Every 10 years”.
Smoke alarms save lives. The chance of dying in a home fire is cut nearly in half by having a functioning smoke alarm. As the majority of these fires occur at night, many believe that they will be awakened by the smell of smoke, but the poisonous gases and smoke can numb the senses and cause a deeper sleep. An alarm can alert occupants to the presence of a fire and allow for an escape.
The Orange Fire Marshal’s Office offers these tips for installing, testing and maintaining smoke alarms. Choose an alarm that bears the label of a recognized testing laboratory. An ionization smoke alarm is generally more responsive to flaming fires and a photo-electric smoke alarm is usually more responsive to smoldering fires. For the best protection, both types of alarms or a combination of the two should be installed in homes. Place smoke alarms on every level, including the basement, and outside all sleeping areas. For added safety, install smoke alarms in every bedroom, as well as rooms where sofas or futons may be used for guests or for a child’s sleepover. Since smoke rises, alarms should be mounted on a wall at 4 to12 inches from the ceiling and 4 inches from the nearest wall. For a vaulted ceiling, install at the highest point. Unless the alarm has 10 year batteries, change the batteries in smoke alarms at least twice a year. Replacing them at daylight savings time, when clocks are changed, is a helpful reminder. Test the alarm every month. Use the test button or an approved smoke substitute. Clean the units according to the manufacturer’s instructions. If the home has a central monitoring system, test it as directed by the company. Do not use an open-flame device. Replace smoke alarms every 10 years to protect against failure. They may work when tested, but the older models can be less reliable. To find out how old an alarm is, look at the date of manufacture on the back of the alarm. If an alarm “chirps” to indicate a low battery, change it as soon as possible. Do not disable the alarm by “borrowing” the batteries for other uses or because of nuisance activations from cooking or bathroom steam. Never paint over a smoke alarm. Special alarms, with a strobe or flashing light and audible alarm, are available for those who are deaf or hard of hearing. Vibrating devices may also be helpful. When sleeping, be sure that the alarm will rouse all family members and have someone who is easily awakened assigned to wake the others, perhaps by yelling “FIRE” or pounding on doors or walls. There are also alarms available that include the ability to record a voice announcement.
Fires can occur day or night and the early notification to all family members by a smoke alarm can save lives. It is important to have and practice a home escape plan. Everyone should know two ways out of each room. A meeting place, outside the home, should be determined. By preparing, you and your family will respond more calmly, feel more secure and act more quickly in an emergency. Never hesitate to call 911 and alert the Fire Department if the alarm is activated, even if you cannot see or smell smoke. Smoke alarms are made to detect small, trace amounts of smoke and to provide an early warning of a fire. Information on fire safety and prevention can be viewed online at www.orangefiremarshal.com, www.nfpa.org and www.sparky.org.
In the past, The Orange Fire Marshal’s Office has had a program that provided and/or installed free smoke alarms to Orange residents. It was very successful, as over 3000 smoke alarms were distributed. It is hoped to have the funding available in the near future to reinstate this service. If assistance is needed with changing the batteries in an existing alarm or for help when installing a battery powered detector, please contact the Fire Marshal’s Office at (203) 891-4711, Monday through Friday from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm.