clintonnc.com

Where there is smoke …

Chris Berendt Staff Writer

December 2, 2013

The Clinton Fire Department has been awarded new smoke alarms through a grant program that will aid in the safety of community residents and possibly even save lives.


Local fire officials will be canvassing at-risk communities later this month to ensure that homes have working smoke alarms and, thanks to a grant from the North Carolina Department of Insurance Office of State Fire Marshal, the department will be equipped to outfit those in need of updated, working alarms.


“The goal is to ensure that every level of the home has working smoke alarms and to replace smoke alarms that are more than 10 years old,” said Clinton Fire Chief Adon Snyder. “The alarms are being provided by the N.C. Department of Insurance through a federal fire prevention grant that was awarded to the Office of State Fire Marshal. The goal of this program is to properly install long life, battery-powered smoke alarms in homes that do not have working alarms to protect the lives of local citizens.”


A smoke alarm, often referred to as a smoke detector, can sense a fire early on and warn a family of impending danger before tragedy strikes.


According to safety tips from the Clinton Fire Department, it is important to install a smoke alarm on each floor of the home and at strategic areas on each level if there is a lot of square footage. Smoke detectors should be installed near sleeping areas, inside the bedroom of any household member who is difficult to arouse from sleep and in the kitchen. Smoke detectors should be high up on walls, near the ceiling, since smoke will rise quickly, fire officials said. And, once installed, they should be tested regularly to make sure they are working.


Staff from the Clinton Fire Department will begin door-to-door canvassing Dec. 15, targeting only residences, not apartments or commercial buildings, Snyder noted. During those door-to-door visits, fire officials will ask residents to allow firefighters into their homes to check their smoke alarms. The department currently has 50 alarms to distribute, but could obtain more if necessary.


“Our plan is going to be to go door to door,” said Snyder. “If someone is in need of a smoke detector, we will distribute that and we will install it for them as well.”


For those with alarms, they can be tested by pushing the test button, something that should occur on a regular basis. Batteries should be replaced if the alarm makes a light beeping noise, a signal that the batteries are running out. Additionally, according to fire officials, smoke alarms should be kept clean and free of dust, dirt and debris with regular dusting or a light vacuum with the hose attachment. That will allow air to circulate in the device, providing better results, earlier detection and superior fire safety.


Batteries in smoke alarms should be changed at least once each year. Statistics show that, while more than 90 percent of homes have smoke alarms, half of them may not be working because of missing or dead batteries. And the alarm unit itself should be replaced every eight to 10 years.


If smoke alarms aren’t working, they can’t help save a life. Snyder and the Clinton Fire Department know that. Through the grant, the department will be working to ensure those lives are saved.


“To have the ability to get a large number of smoke detectors to distribute to residences that need it, it’s unbelievable,” Snyder said. “Those alarms can be between $25-$40 apiece, so that can get really expensive. That’s not something we budget for, so this is incredible to have the opportunity to get this (grant).”


If any smoke alarms need to be replaced, new alarms will be installed in the proper locations. If no one is home at the time of the visit, a notification tag will be left on the front door to notify the residents that the fire department has stopped by for a courtesy check of their smoke alarms. While there are 50 alarms the department can distribute, more — 100, maybe even 200 — can be requested.


“In a perfect world, everyone will have a working smoke detector and we won’t have to hand any out,” said Snyder, “but we know that’s not the case.”


Anyone with questions regarding the program, or inquiring about smoke detectors, can call the Clinton Fire Department at 910-299-4902.


Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at cberendt@civitasmedia.com.