Removing smoke alarm batteries could take your life

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 30, 2002

Suffolk Fire Marshall A.G. Barrett said that any resident in public housing is not only responsible for his or her own fire safety, but for that of occupants throughout the buildings. With that in mind, Barrett is on a mission to educate people about the importance of smoke alarms in their homes.

He pointed out that nationwide statistics show nearly 700 children aged 14 and younger die in home fires each year.

&uot;In most of those fires, the children died or were severely injured in homes without working smoke alarms,&uot; Barrett said. &uot;We want to prevent the possibility of something like that happening here in Suffolk. This year alone, we have had more than 200 fires in the city including brush fires, shed fires and home fires. Thankfully, none of those fires have resulted in death and that’s what we want to prevent, but we need help from the tenants to ensure their fire safety.&uot;

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Barrett began his educational mission at Hoffler Apartments on East Washington Street. On Tuesday, he visited Colander-Bishop Meadows Apartments on Brook Avenue and today he will visit with residents at Chorey Park Apartments just off West Washington Street.

At all these meetings, the fire marshal informs residents attending his mini-seminars that maintaining their smoke detector’s batteries is just as important as learning how to prevent the occurrence of fires.

&uot;In some instances where we have had home fires, there were no working smoke detectors, and in some cases, the smoke detectors had been completely removed from the ceiling,&uot; Barrett said. &uot;Tenants are responsible for maintaining the working condition of the smoke detectors by keeping good fresh batteries installed in them. The rule of thumb is to change the batteries every year when we change to daylight savings time. Tenants also need to test their smoke alarms at least once a month and the alarms need to be replaced every 10 years.&uot;

He also advised residents not to remove the smoke detectors placed in the apartments by Suffolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority. Barrett added that before an apartment can be rented, it must stand rigorous inspection.

&uot;Part of that inspection includes the smoke detectors,&uot; said Barrett. &uot;They must be in place and they must be in working order. We know the devices are there when people move in but sometimes tenants remove them completely or just take the batteries out to use in remote controls, toys and other items.&uot;

&uot;I explain to tenants, they are at least endangering the lives of those people who live in apartments next door to them,&uot; said Barrett. &uot;Anyone removing a smoke detector or its batteries is taking a great risk, not only with their lives but also their property. So far this year, we have had fire losses of almost $50,000 in damages.&uot;

Along with providing a brochure, &uot;Fireproof Your Home,&uot; to tenants at Tuesday’s seminar, Barrett also told them that renters insurance is a must.

&uot;That protection runs around $60 for the entire year, but it can be invaluable in the event of any tragedy like a fire,&uot; he said. &uot;It won’t get you to stand up, but it will get you back on your feet.&uot;

Barrett is available to speak on fire prevention to any civic or church group, school or groups of homeowners or renters. For more information on the importance of smoke detectors and other fire prevention and fire safety measures, call the fire marshal at 925-5745.