Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A Different Kind of 9-1-1 Call

By: Daniel the Intern

The Montgomery County Fire & Rescue Service website is a great place for fire safety tips and prevention strategies but the information only goes so far. Last week during my internship Captain Oscar Garcia, Mr. Bill Delaney, and I went to a house for an issue that many folks do not think of as an emergency – a home without working smoke alarms. A woman was unsure about whether her smoke alarm was working or not and after her inquiry with the MCFRS, we were on our way as the department believes this to be a critical life safety issue.

She was away at work when we got there but her husband was home and welcomed us inside. He was in a wheelchair and needed assistance checking the condition of a smoke alarm that was on the ceiling. However, he had a good feeling it was dead because it had been installed when the house was built and that was many years ago. He was right; the smoke alarm was completely dead with cob webs and all and we gladly installed a new one with a fresh battery. All smoke alarms need to be replaced every 10 years!

From USFA Web Site
He then allowed us to go downstairs and check to see if a working smoke alarm was present, which we all felt was highly unlikely. Upon investigation there may have been one on the ceiling in the past, as there were two screws, but nothing was between them so we installed another.

In the adjacent room, we noticed a hot water heater with a few things that can burn (towels, rags, clothing) leaning on it. It was potentially an immediate fire hazard as you need to keep any thing that can burn off of, and away from, anything that produces heat. We returned upstairs to let the home owner know about the issue and asked permission to correct it and make him safer – which he agreed.

Another topic we discussed was cooking safety because he prepares his own meals and being in a wheelchair, there were additional risks involved. While cooking on a stove, loose sleeves are a common article of clothing that ignites and we explained it to him. Handles that are over the edge are also dangerous because they can easily be bumped into when moving around the kitchen. Finally, we asked if he had a home fire escape plan and whether or not he could get out safely if no one was around to assist him. He said he did have a plan and had practiced it before so we made sure everything was done before we left.

It was awesome to know that we potentially prevented a fire from happening while installing working smoke alarms to alert them just in case there is a fire! Hopefully the smoke alarms will never have to alert the family of a fire but if one does occur then we might have saved a life or two. Call MC311 if you want to have MCFRS look at your smoke alarms to make sure you are protected.

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