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Smoke detectors: The sound of life

Suffolk fire fighter Robert Hodges demonstrates safety testing a smoke detector, a focus during October’s Fire Prevention Month.

EDITORS NOTE: This is the first in a series of stories commemorating National Fire Prevention Week 2010. For more information on fire safety and prevention, visit www.nfpa.org.

A smoke detector’s piercing shrill might be a pain when you forget the cookies in the oven, but it could save your life someday.

Smoke alarms are a key component to fire safety — so important, in fact, they are the focus of this year’s fire prevention week.

“Smoke alarms are probably your number one line of defense if there is a fire in the house,” said Ed Taylor, Suffolk’s deputy fire chief. “They alert you and ensure if there is a fire in the house that you have enough time to escape the building. We’ve had many related calls where the alarms were what alerted people of the fire in their home.”

According to a press release from the city, studies have shown that a smoke alarm is one of the most effective and least expensive tools you can employ to increase your chances for surviving a fire.

In fact, smoke alarms reduce the risk of dying in a fire by half. However, in order for a smoke detector to do its job, it must be present, properly located and functioning properly.

The National Fire Protection Association recommends smoke alarms in every bedroom, outside all sleeping areas and on every level of the home, including the basement.

It is recommend that smoke alarms be tested once a month using the test button. Owners also should change the batteries twice a year and replace each smoke alarm every 10 years, or more often if recommended by the manufacturer.

“Every [time] you set your clock forwards or backwards is a good time to change your battery in your smoke alarm,” Taylor said. “And remember, sometimes they do get old. You should do general maintenance to make sure it will work when you need it to by reading their instructions and pushing the test button monthly.”

In recognition of the week and to serve as reminders to the community, firefighters and fire marshal’s office staff will be visiting churches, schools, civic groups and other organizations this month to remind folks of the importance of smoke alarms and other aspects of fire safety.

An information booth will be set up in the city tent at Peanut Fest. The Fire and Life Safety House will be in operation at Peanut Fest and other events during the month so that our children can learn firsthand how to crawl out of a burning building, in addition to other important fire safety information.

For more information regarding Fire Prevention Week and general fire and injury prevention, or to schedule a presentation during Fire Prevention Month, citizens may call the fire marshal’s office at 514-4540 or 514-4550.