Placing free smoke detectors in the homes of residents at high risk is the goal of a new project by local fire departments.
The five-year statewide project is in its fourth year, but this is the first time local departments have participated, said Bill Fortenberry with the Lincolnton Fire Department.
The Lincolnton Fire Department, Boger City Volunteer Fire Department and North 321 Volunteer Fire Department are taking part in â€œGet Alarmed North Carolina.â€
Through the program, the departments applied for 300 smoke detectors and received 150, Fortenberry said. Those 150 need to be installed into homes by July 31.
The departments will mainly be targeting homes with people in what they call high risk categories â€” those older than 65 and younger than 5. Those are the age groups that typically need assistance getting out of the house during an emergency, Fortenberry said.
â€œThe more early warning you can get, the better,â€ he said.
Officials will also work with the Department of Social Services and Health Department to pinpoint certain households in need of the devices.
While high risk groups will be considered the priority, Fortenberry said no one will be turned away if they need a smoke detector.
Officials are looking specifically at private owners, since landlords are required by law to install detectors in rental properties.
But the program will do more than put a smoke detector in a house that doesnâ€™t have one.
Fortenberry said itâ€™s OK if you already have a detector.
â€œA lot have them, but theyâ€™re not adequately covered,â€ he said.
There should be a smoke alarm outside every sleeping area and on every floor, he said.
And alarms older than 10 years old will be replaced, too, he said.
The way the program works is simple â€” if you meet the criteria and need a detector, call the Lincolnton Fire Department at 704-736-8920. Firefighters will set up a time with you, probably during the next day, to come install your free alarm.
â€œWithin a day or two at the very most weâ€™ll have the detector put up,â€ Fortenberry said.
When they come to your house, firefighters will conduct a short safety inspection. Theyâ€™ll look to make sure things like space heaters and drop cords are being used correctly as well as check out kitchen safety.
If you accept the smoke detector, youâ€™ll be required to sign a form releasing the fire departments from liability.
The smoke detector youâ€™ll receive contains a sealed lithium battery that makes the alarm good for 10 years. Monthly checks are required, but the battery doesnâ€™t have to be changed.
Twenty other agencies in the state were awarded grants for this project. In addition to the alarms, grant money will also help purchase ladders, drills and advertising to help with the program.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, a 2004 nationwide telephone survey found that 96 percent of the households surveyed had at least one smoke alarm. Roughly half of home fire deaths result from fires in the small percentage of homes with no smoke alarms.
In 2003, there were 388,500 reported home fires in the United States, resulting in 3,145 deaths, 13,650 injuries and $5.9 billion in direct property damage.
by Alice Smith