A lit­tle preven­tion goes a long way

Cecil Whig - - OPINION -

Last Jan­uary, a fire swept through a home in Chillum in Prince Ge­orge’s County and claimed the lives of two tod­dlers and their grand­par­ents. In­ves­ti­ga­tors said at the time there was no ev­i­dence of any smoke alarms in­side the house.

When we re­ceive re­ports like this, we can’t help but feel grief for these fam­i­lies whose lives could pos­si­bly have been spared from such tragedies if only sim­ple, pre­ven­ta­tive mea­sures had been taken be­fore­hand. We’ll never know if the smoke alarm would have meant the dif­fer­ence be­tween life or death in the Chillum house fire case, but we have to as­sume it couldn’t have hurt.

Ac­cord­ing to the lat­est Na­tional Fire Pro­tec­tion As­so­ci­a­tion re­search, about two-thirds of home fire deaths oc­curred in fires in which there was a non-work­ing smoke alarm or no smoke alarm was present.

“All too of­ten a tragedy oc­curs in­volv­ing a dwelling fire that claims the life of an oc­cu­pant and/or oc­cu­pants,” State Fire Mar­shal Brian S. Geraci said in a press re­lease. “Sadly, in many of these oc­cur­rences, a lack of op­er­at­ing smoke alarms is re­vealed dur­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion. It is our hope that Fire Preven­tion Week will help us reach folks through­out the state of Mary­land be­fore they’ve suf­fered a tragic loss re­sult­ing from the ef­fects of fire.”

Gov. Larry Ho­gan (R) has pro­claimed Oct. 9 through 15 as Fire Preven­tion Week. As part of that ef­fort, Ce­cil County vol­un­teer fire de­part­ments will con­tinue to spread the word about the dan­gers of fires in the home. Most of those dan­gers can be pre­vented by per­form­ing ba­sic life safety mea­sures, the fire mar­shal’s of­fice says. Here are some of Geraci’s sug­gested safety tips: • Main­tain smoke alarms on ev­ery level of the home, in bed­rooms and out­side sleep­ing ar­eas

• Re­place smoke alarms ev­ery 10 years (look for the man­u­fac­turer’s date on the back of the alarm)

• Re­place bat­ter­ies in smoke alarms that have re­place­able 9-volt bat­ter­ies ev­ery year

• In­stall and main­tain car­bon monox­ide alarms in homes with fuel-fired ap­pli­ances, place these alarms on ev­ery level of the home and re­place them ev­ery 10 years

The state fire mar­shal also re­minds home­own­ers that a 2013 law now re­quires “bat­tery-only” smoke alarms, once they reach their 10-year life­span, be re­placed with new long-life sealed lithium bat­tery alarms with si­lence, or hush but­ton, fea­tures. The hush but­ton tem­po­rar­ily dis­ables the alarm to ven­ti­late dur­ing mild smoke con­di­tions gen­er­ated while cook­ing. The use of these alarms elim­i­nates the need to re­place the bat­ter­ies dur­ing the alarm’s decade-long life.

Ac­cord­ing to the fire mar­shal’s of­fice, Fire Preven­tion Week is ac­tively sup­ported by fire de­part­ments across the coun­try. And why shouldn’t it be? These small, round ceil­ing de­vices can mean ex­tra sec­onds, even min­utes, in the event of a fire when the oc­cu­pants of the home are un­aware or asleep. And that can be the dif­fer­ence be­tween life and death.

House fires can start for any num­ber of rea­sons, whether a stove was left on overnight, a cig­a­rette was im­prop­erly dis­carded or an out­let or elec­tri­cal wiring sim­ply mal­func­tioned.

And things can hap­pen out­side as well. Last week, a garage fire heav­ily dam­aged a water­front home in Leonard­town, and that blaze was traced to a rid­ing lawn mower that had been re­cently put away. For­tu­nately, no one was se­ri­ously in­jured.

So as the fire mar­shal sug­gests, in­side the house and out, take pre­ven­ta­tive ac­tion. Be sure to in­stall, test and retest those smoke alarms. Don’t wait un­til it’s too late.

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