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Tragedy averted by smoke alarm

What could have been a tragedy was averted early Friday morning when eight children and one adult living in Hoffler Apartments were awakened by a working smoke alarm.

According to a city spokeswoman, the fire was reported at 1:06 a.m. But by the time the first units arrived on scene eight minutes later, the adult and all eight children had managed to escape without injury, because they had been alerted by a functioning smoke detector.

There are many steps to fire prevention. It’s important to properly extinguish smoking materials, ensure cooking is closely attended and the like. But one thing is clear: the single best thing you can do that won’t prevent a fire, but WILL help save your life, is have working smoke detectors in every recommended area of your home.

The National Fire Protection Association states that three out of every five home fire deaths occur in homes with no smoke alarm or no working smoke alarm. Most of those deaths happened in homes with no smoke alarms at all. One in five happened in a home without a working smoke alarm. The top reason for the smoke alarms not working in those fires is because the alarm had been intentionally disconnected from its power source due to the alarm going off unnecessarily.

Unfortunately, when the time came that the alarm was necessary, it wasn’t able to do its job.

The NFPA offers these tips for proper smoke detector installation and operation:

  • Install smoke alarms in every sleeping room and outside each sleeping area.
  • Install alarms on every level of the home, including in the basement.
  • Smoke alarms should be at least 10 feet from the stove to reduce false alarms.
  • Smoke alarms should be on the ceiling or high on a wall.
  • Smoke alarms should be interconnected so that when one sounds, they all sound.
  • Large homes may need extra smoke alarms.
  • Test all smoke alarms at least once a month.
  • Replace all smoke alarms when they are 10 years old.

If you have questions about smoke alarms, call the Suffolk Fire Marshal’s Office at 514-4550.