The Brazil City Fire Department will be going door-to-door with free smoke detectors, child bedroom identification stickers and safety information in the coming weeks. Last week, Brazil City Fire Chief Tobey Archer checked the batteries in a smoke alarm he properly re-installed for Michelle Behney at her home 410 S. Leavitt St. ash she watched. Behney's home is in an area of the city at risk due to water problems mentioned in the fire department's hydrant report to the city council in July.
The Brazil City Fire Department will provide free smoke detectors, child bedroom identification stickers and safety information to individuals who request it at the fire station located at Brazil City Hall.
For more information, please call the Brazil City Fire Dept. at 448-1721.
By IVY HERRON
The Brazil City Fire Department wants to make sure as many homes as possible have functioning smoke alarms that are installed properly.
"I will give a smoke detector to anyone who asks for it, as long as they promise to install it. We're going door-to-door today to offer residents a free smoke detector, check and replace batteries and properly install or re-install smoke detectors in the homes of people in high risk areas in the city," Brazil City Fire Chief Tobey Archer said while passing out safety information to residents along south Leavitt Street. "If this saves one life, it is worth every minute we spend out here."
Michelle Behney, 410 S. Leavitt St., was glad to be home when the fire chief and probationary fireman William "Stoney" Fisher knocked on her door.
"I have three children and want to make sure they're safe," Behney said. "We practice fire safety as a family -- like fire escapes from the second story and evacuation plans -- because we live in an older home with older wiring. The fuse box smoked once and scared me, but I feel much safer now."
The firemen installed two new smoke detectors, one upstairs and the other on the back porch near the fuse box, and re-installed two others to the proper location in the Behney home.
"I didn't know (smoke detectors) weren't supposed to hang on the walls," she said. "Chief Archer said a fire would have had to be burning at least several minutes before the smoke would have gotten to where it was placed on the wall."
Most manufacturer's instructions say a smoke detector can be placed on the wall or the ceiling, but Archer recommends the best spot to install a unit is on the ceiling at least 10- to 12-inches from the walls because smoke rises.
"The area within six-inches of where the wall and ceiling meet is proven to be a "dead air" space that receives little air circulation," he said. "It will take too long for the smoke to build up enough and reach a smoke detector (placed in that area)."
Research by the National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA) shows an increase in smoke detector use in homes, but also reported a greater increase in homes with non-functioning smoke detectors or those without working batteries installed. The report also showed that 70 percent of fire deaths result from homes with either no smoke alarms or a non-working smoke alarm installed.
Chief Archer implemented the door-to-door project after a hydrant report identified areas at risk due to low water availability.
Water Superintendent Dick Vanatti is working to improve the city's water lines and installing new hydrants in areas of need, but unfortunately house fires don't wait on improvements to infrastructure, according to Chief Archer.
"Our two- to three-minute response time is more effective for saving lives and property when the department is notified at the beginning stages of a home fire," he said. "Smoke detectors alert people when the fire is in its incipient stage, or just beginning."
Within a five- to eight-minute period from ignition, a fire can burn past the point of origin and spread quickly throughout a home -- limiting the amount of time for a family to get out of a house fire safely, according to the NFPA. Once a fire burns beyond its room of origin it becomes more difficult to extinguish, but early detection can greatly improve a victim's safety and significantly reduce property loss.
Smoke alarms are not made to last forever and should be replaced once every 10 years.
"If you can't remember how old your smoke detector is, then it's probably time for a new one," Brazil Fire Chief Tobey Archer said.
The department also provides families with identification stickers to place on a child's bedroom window or along the bottom of a bedroom door to help firefighters identify rooms that may have sleeping children inside during a fire.
"These stickers are awesome," Behney said after placing one on the window of her daughter's second-floor bedroom window and two others on the doors of her other two children. "It would be great if more people utilized this program. If I would have know about it, I'd have made the trip to the fire house myself to get this stuff. I'm so glad I was home today."
If you aren't home when the firefighters come to your neighborhood, don't worry said Chief Archer, "We leave a safety pamphlet on the door with contact information for the department about the program."
National Fire Prevention Association's smoke detector tips:
Smoke detectors should be installed on every level of your home (including the basement), making sure there is an unit outside every separate sleeping area.
If you, or someone in your home is deaf or hard-of-hearing, consider installing a unit with a loud alarm or one that combines flashing lights, vibration and/or sound.
Remember smoke rises when installing a smoke detector. Ceiling mounted smoke detectors should be installed at least 10-inches away from the nearest wall, while wall-mounted units should be installed four- to 12-inches away from where the ceiling and wall meet. (Installing a smoke detector in a pitched ceiling requires the unit be placed near the ceiling's highest point.)
Do not install smoke detectors near windows, doors, or ducts where drafts might interfere with the unit's operation.
Do not paint or cover smoke detectors. Paint, stickers, or other decorations placed in front of the unit could keep it from working.
Test your smoke alarms once a month, following the manufacturer's instructions.
Replace batteries once a year, or as soon as the unit "chirps" a warning the battery is low.