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Smoke alarms installed by staff alerted residences to fire in 8 separate cases

August 7, 2017 • Peg Carson

Lauren Brookins, , Brighton Area Fire Authority
Brighton, Michigan

The authority for many years had a passive smoke alarm program, installing and checking alarms on a request bases only. In late 2011 a Fire and Life Safety educator was appointed and tasked with creating a new initiative that new initiative was to ensure every home in our demographical jurisdiction had at least one working smoke alarm.

Starting with the initiative in mind the current program was re-evaluated and re-created. Data tracking forms were implemented, capturing vital information. Correct smoke alarm placement training was conducted. Educational material and escape plan worksheets were packets were put together for homeowners review. Smoke alarm quick kits were prepared for every apparatus, including smoke alarms, batteries and installation tools. This helped ensure every home we left did not get left without a working smoke alarm.

The program focused on ensuring every home we entered for various reasons the smoke alarms in the home were checked, physically when able, and visually when not. As the program grew so did the request for alarms, crews were installing smoke alarms on a daily bases. Less than one year into the initiative, results showed, alarms installed by crews saved the lives of a family of 4. Wanting to take the program to the next level, door-to-door blitz attacks were conducted in low income housing communities. All events were a success, having positive results. During the progression of the program, we found an unaddressed issue, residents with a hearing impairment. With finding the need, we realized we needed the funding to continue being proactive and aggressive with the program and address those who needed specialize smoke alarm devices. An AFG Fire Prevention and Safety Grant was obtained, providing funding for 5000 10-year sealed smoke alarms and 200 hearing impaired smoke alarms/ bed shakers. With the successes of the program it was determined additional alarms were needed to keep pace with the daily installs, along with wanting to increase safety and awareness by implementing a carbon monoxide installation program. An additional AFG Fire Prevention and Safety Grant were awarded in 2016 for 5000 smoke alarms and 1400 carbon monoxide alarms.

Having taken delivery of the alarms in 2014, a one day department wide blitz was conducted. Within a 6 hour block, 3000 doors were knocked on and 2000 smoke alarms were installed. Of those homes 47% did not have a single working smoke alarm.

Since the inception of the program, 6000 smoke alarms have been installed and 150 hearing impaired residents now have a piece of mind and will be alerted in the event of a fire. Results show the positive outcome of the program with 8 documented cases where smoke alarms installed by staff, alerted residence of a fire.

Partners

We have partnered with a local Disaster Relief team (DART) who help local fire departments on the scene of fire or large incidents, and also are very active in volunteering with local events.

Also local civic groups who help hand out flyers and provide volunteers.

Outreach programs that specialized in dealing with the deaf and hard of hearing were contacted. We were able to hold meetings and send out informational pamphlets to education and reach those who had a hearing impairment offering the specialized devices free of charge.

We also partnered with local pizza delivery restaurants and Lowes Home Improvement. A fire truck would deliver the pizza and Lowes donated the smoke alarms. If the resident had working smoke alarms, the pizza would be free, if they did not smoke alarms would be installed on site and the residents would be educated on the importance checking their alarms and other home safety tips.

Funding

Grant: AFG 2012 FP & S Number: EMW-2012-FP-00730
FEMA grant funding to fund the hearing impaired alarms and 5000 ten-year sealed smoke alarms. General funds and in kind donations allowed the program begin.

Grant: AFG 2015 FP & S Number: EMW-2015-FP-00237
FEMA grant funding to continue the aggressive program and implement a carbon monoxide alarm installation program, funding provided 5000 ten-year sealed smoke alarms and 1400 carbon monoxide alarms.

Other funding source In kind donation

Purpose

Initially the program was focused on low income housing communities, high risk age groups, and deaf and hard of hearing. The high risk age groups were determined based on NFPA standards and definition of high risk age groups. However, no resident was turned down if smoke alarms were needed and or requested. Based on collected data and efforts we have been able to extend our efforts better define our demographics and overall need. Now with the ability to install carbon monoxide alarms they are to be installed in all homes regardless of economic factors or demographics.

What prompted this program?

The increasing number of fire deaths in residential homes sparked the initiative for this project. Alongside knowing the rise in fire deaths was unsettling, a quantitative risk assessment was conducted. Age, incomes, economics, employment and other factors were looked at when the assessment was conducted. The troubling findings lead us down the path of creating an aggressive proactive smoke alarm program. While entering homes and educating the residence on home fire safety we discovered that more homes did not have any carbon monoxide alarms nor even recognized the need for one. Homes throughout the jurisdiction often use alternative heat and power sources that increased the number of carbon monoxide related incidents which brought to our attention the need to incorporate a carbon monoxide installation programs.

We also saw a rise in fire fighter injuries during rescue and search operations. Allowing residents to escape fire at the earliest notification put our firefighters in less of a risk having to go enter a hazard unsafe, unstable area.

Quotes

Our three communities have adopted 1306 requiring fire sprinklers. We have had several structure fires that have been extinguished or kept small and minimized damage due to the presence of fire sprinkler systems. One of the townhomes in our community had a fire in the garage that was extinguished by the fire sprinkler system. When crews arrived, they mopped up water. There was minimal damage to the home. A neighboring community had a fire in an identical townhome built by the same developer, started in the same area of the home without residential fire sprinklers and the home was a total loss.

Through our prevention efforts, our call volume has essentially remained the same while our communities have seen tremendous growth. The population of our communities has grown 11% but our call volume has remained the same over the last 10 years. The calls have gone from a fire in a manufactured home once a month to a fire in a manufactured home once a year. Our largest call volume is false alarms. In the past it was structure fires. We used to hold 2 classes for youth fire setters a month with 8 students in each class. We had one youth fire setter last year. We have had 18 documented saves for our home safety program. We have had a child come back to show us the helmet he had on when he crashed his bike. He had gotten a helmet a week earlier at the event.

Images

How this project used Fire is Everyone’s Fight materials

We have incorporated Fire is Everyone’s Fight but utilizing the resources and materials offered and that allowed to help standardize the messages and reach audiences we do not have regular interaction with.

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