The Chief’s Corner

By Robert W. Seltzer, BSEE, EFO, MPA Chief Smithfield Fire Dept.

In the last couple of weeks I have had two people approach me during lunch while eating at local establishments to ask questions about smoke detectors. I was somewhat surprised because it is unusual to have people ask about smoke detectors to the detail they had asked me, almost as if they had little knowledge about their use. I was surprised, but more importantly I was concerned. I was concerned because I wondered how many more people have questions, but have not asked.

Therefore, this month’s column is dedicated to smoke detectors and hopefully will answer unanswered questions as well as refresh all of our memories about their proper use.

Almost 2,500 people die in home fires every year in the United States. Most of these people live in homes that do not have working smoke alarms. Smoke alarms save lives. Keep your family safe. Put working smoke alarms in your home.

Smoke is poison. It can kill you.
Smoke alarms make a loud noise when there is smoke in your home.
Smoke alarms wake you up if you are sleeping.
Put a smoke alarm on every level of your home and outside each sleeping area. Put a smoke alarm inside every bedroom.
Smoke goes up. Put smoke alarms on the ceiling or high on the wall.
Your family is not safe if they can’t hear the smoke alarms.
Test your smoke alarms. Push the test button. You will hear a loud noise. If you don’t hear the noise, you need a new battery or a new alarm. Fix this immediately.
Make sure the smoke alarm always has a good battery. Put a new battery in the alarm every year.
Smoke alarms with long-life batteries will work for up to 10 years. You do not have to change the battery.
Smoke alarms do not last forever. Get new smoke alarms every 10 years.

When you hear a smoke alarm, you only have about three minutes to get everyone outside and safe. Three minutes is a short timeframe. Make sure you have done the following.

Tell your family what to do if they hear the smoke alarm.
Make an escape plan so everyone knows how to get out fast.
Pick a meeting place outside of your home where everyone will meet.
Some children and older adults cannot hear the smoke alarm when they are sleeping. Make a plan for how to wake them up.
Practice your escape plan with everyone in your family two times each year.
Go to your outside meeting place immediately.
Call 911 or the fire department from outside.
Never go back inside a burning building.

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