The Matlacha/Pine Island Fire Control District wants to keep islanders and their homes safe by installing complimentary smoke alarms for Pine Island and Matlacha residents 50 years and older.
The Division of State Fire Marshal Bureau of Fire Prevention was recently awarded a FEMA Fire Prevention and Safety grant to promote a comprehensive statewide fire safety campaign for the elderly population, 55 years and older. The goals of this campaign is to increase fire safety knowledge to the elderly through educational programs; reduce the injury rate, fatality rate and number of fires in the homes of the elderly; conduct fire safety inspections in their homes; and install smoke alarms in their homes when the alarms are inoperable or absent.
"We put the grant in about a month and a half ago," MPIFCD Deputy Chief Benjamin Mickuleit said. "As of right now we have 50 smoke alarms to get us started. We want to get the word out that they only need to call us. We will stop by, perform a home safety inspection and install their free smoke alarms."
Each year, approximately 1,100 Americans ages 65 and older die as a result of a home fire. Compared to the rest of the U.S. population:
People between 65 and 74 are nearly twice as likely to die in a fire.
People between 75 and 84 are nearly four times as likely to die in a fire.
People ages 85 and older are more than five times as likely to die in a fire.
With a few simple steps, older people, and those who care for them, can dramatically reduce their risk of death and injury from fire.
A properly installed and maintained smoke alarm is the first thing in a home that can alert residents to a fire. They operate 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. According to the National Fire Protection Association, almost two-thirds of home fire deaths resulted from fires in properties without working smoke alarms. A working smoke alarm significantly increases your chances of surviving a deadly home fire.
The two most common smoke alarms on the market are ionization and photoelectric.
Ionization and photoelectric smoke alarms detect two different types of fires. Since no one can predict what type of fire might start in their home, the USFA recommends that every home and place where people sleep have both ionization and photoelectric smoke alarms, or dual sensor smoke alarms, which contain both ionization and photoelectric smoke sensors.
There are also alarms for people with hearing loss. These alarms have strobe lights that flash and/or vibrate to alert those who are unable to hear standard smoke alarms when they sound.
Smoke alarms are powered by batteries or the home's electrical system. If the smoke alarm is powered by battery, it runs on either a disposable 9-volt battery or a non-replaceable 10-year lithium ("long-life") battery. Alarms that get power from a home's electrical system, or "hardwired," usually have a back-up battery that will need to be replaced twice a year.
"Sometimes where the problem arises is that the guidelines aren't being followed," Christie Roman, fire inspector, said. "For example, they recommend that people replace their smoke detectors with new ones every 10 years. Also, I had someone ask, 'How do you make it stop chirping?' These are things people need to know."
By calling the MPIFCD, anyone over the age of 50 can have brand new smoke alarms installed in their home. Alarms will be installed on an "as needed" basis. Some homes will require only one while others will require more. Plus, while the fire department is there they will perform a safety home inspection.
"The alarms we are installing include the 10-year battery," Roman said. "So there isn't a need to replace batteries once or twice a year. But that still means every smoke detector should be tested once a month."
"We just want the public to be educated about the hazards and how easily their homes can be made much more safe," Mickuleit said. "It's not the fire that kills people, it's the smoke and that's what the smoke detector is for."
To receive your free home safety check and smoke detectors call: 239-283-0030