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Fire Prevention Week 2010
HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. – As part of Fire Prevention Week, Assistance Fire Chief Mark Webb explains parts of the Hazard House to fourth and fifth graders at Hanscom Middle School on Oct. 5. The Hazard House has several built in fire hazards that produce sound, lights and smoke to educate children about fire safety. (U.S. Air Force photo by Rick Berry)
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Smoke alarms save lives

Posted 10/7/2010   Updated 10/7/2010 Email story   Print story

    


Commentary by Chief Robert Hildreth
Hanscom Air Force Base fire department


10/7/2010 - HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. -- As a member of the fire service for over 35 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.

Each year, nearly 3,000 people die in home fires. Many of those deaths could be avoided with the proper smoke alarm protection. The nonprofit National Fire Protection Association's (NFPA) statistics show that while working smoke alarms cut the chance of dying in a fire nearly in half, roughly two-thirds of all home fire deaths result from fires in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms.

People have grown so accustomed to seeing smoke alarms in their homes that they feel adequately protected by them. The public's complacency toward smoke alarms and fire safety in general must change. With a greater understanding and respect for fire's potentially devastating impact, people can start taking the steps necessary to better protect themselves and their families.

NFPA's recommendations include a smoke alarm installed in all bedrooms, at least one on every level of the home, including the basement, and outside all sleeping areas. It is also recommended that smoke alarms be interconnected, so that when one sounds, they all do.

Most residents are not aware of the two types of smoke alarm technologies available: ionization and photoelectric. Ionization smoke alarms are generally more responsive to flaming fires, like a pan fire or smoke from cooking. Photoelectric smoke alarms are generally more responsive to smoldering fires, like a cigarette, overheated wiring or something hot like a space heater. Both types of smoke alarms should be installed in your home. Unfortunately, many homes in communities throughout the U.S. still do not have this level of protection.

As the sponsor of Fire Prevention Week Oct. 3 through 9, NFPA is promoting "Smoke Alarms: A Sound You Can Live With!" to better educate the public about recommendations for smoke alarms and the steps they can take to best protect their homes and loved ones. The Hanscom fire department actively supported this campaign through family-oriented events throughout the base during Fire Prevention Week and will wrap up with a Walk at Castle Park on Oct. 9 beginning at 11 a.m.

The fire department is doing its part to educate residents about the importance of installing and maintaining smoke alarms appropriately, but the true safety lies with local communities and their willingness to take the steps needed to protect their homes and families from fire. Our sincere hope is that everyone participates in these activities and starts working toward a community safe from risk of fire and the damage it could cause.



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