As a member of the fire service for 17 years, I have seen all too many times the devastation fire can incur on people and their homes. Watching a household endure the loss of their most valued possessions is simply heartbreaking. But there's no greater horror than to witness a family suffer the aftermath of one or more loved ones who have perished in a fire. What's most tragic about so many of these incidents, and I must admit sometimes frustrating, is that the fatal outcomes often could have been prevented with the presence of properly installed, working smoke alarms.
Newer smoke alarm recommendations and technologies now provide greater levels of home fire protection than ever before. Unfortunately, many people still do not know about these updated recommendations, nor do they have this level of fire protection in their homes. In an effort to better educate the public about these critical home fire safety issues, the nonprofit National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has developed "Smoke Alarms: A Sound You Can Live With!," as the theme for Fire Prevention Week, Oct. 3-9.
* Smoke alarms should be installed on every level of the home (including the basement), outside each sleeping area, and inside each bedroom. Larger homes may need additional smoke alarms. Never remove or disable smoke alarms.
* Interconnection of smoke alarms is highly recommended; when one smoke alarm sounds, they all do. (This is particularly important in larger or multi-story homes, where the sound from distant smoke alarms may be reduced to the point that it may not be loud enough to provide proper warning, especially for sleeping individuals.) A licensed electrician can install either hard-wired multiple-station alarms or wireless alarms, which manufacturers have more recently begun producing, can be installed by the homeowner.
* There are two types of smoke alarm technologies -- ionization and photoelectric. An ionization smoke alarm is generally more responsive to flaming fires -- like a pan fire or the smoke from cooking. A photoelectric alarm is generally more responsive to smoldering fires -- like a cigarette, overheated wiring or something hot like a space heater. Install both types of alarms in your home or combination ionization and photoelectric alarms that take advantage of both technologies.
* Test smoke alarms at least monthly by pushing the test button. If an alarm "chirps," warning the battery is low, replace the battery right away.
* All smoke alarms, including alarms that use 10-year batteries and those that are hard-wired alarms, should be replaced when they're 10 years old (or sooner) if they do not respond properly when tested.
For more information about Fire Prevention Week or additional fire safety tips, the Cartersville Fire Department can be reached at (770) 387-5635 or online at http://www.cityofcartersville.org. You can also visit NFPA's website at www.firepreventionweek.org.
Chief Mark Hathaway, Fire Marshal
Cartersville Fire Department