Faulty Smoke Alarms “Spark” Fire Safety Program in Orange County

Public Health & Safety

The National Fire Protection Association reports almost three out of five home fire deaths happened in residences with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms. This troubling statistic “sparked” Orange County Fire Rescue (OCFR) to take action.

In 2016, OCFR began an initiative that provides County residents with free home safety visits to review the inspection of smoke alarms, windows, possible tripping hazards, as well as discussing home escape plans, meeting places and cooking safety.

As part of this safety initiative, the department conducts weekly “smoke alarm blitzes” – a one-day outreach where firefighters install multiple smoke alarms in 20 to 30 homes – focusing on older housing stock in Orange County.

“Smoke alarms generally only last about 10 years,” said Assistant Fire Marshal Inez Pressler. “Older residences are more likely to not have up-to-date smoke alarms or they may not have enough.”

Prior to this program, the department gave away smoke alarms to Orange County residents, but they did not install them. The 2016 Assistance to Firefighters grant awarded to Orange County Fire Rescue now allows firefighters to knock on residents’ doors and offer free smoke alarm installation. The new alarms include 10-year lithium batteries.

Throughout the year, Fire Rescue even partners with other organizations, such as The American Red Cross, doubling the amount of volunteers and allowing inspection of close to 300 homes – as well as increasing the department’s community outreach efforts.

“Our weekend smoke alarm blitzes provide an opportunity for our firefighters to interact with the communities they serve in a non-emergency setting,” said Assistant Chief Martis Mark. “Smoke alarms save lives and our crews play a vital role in getting this message out to the public. Our goal is to ensure smoke alarms are installed in as many homes throughout Orange County as possible.”

If a homeowner is unavailable during the voluntary blitz, Orange County residents can call 311 to schedule an appointment. Residents are also encouraged to visit their local fire stations, and ask questions about the program and smoke alarm installation. For more information, visit ocfrd.com.

Fire Safety Facts:

  • Smoke alarms should be tested every month.
  • One smoke alarm should be in each sleeping area, another in the vicinity of the sleeping area and one on each level of a home.
  • Standard batteries should be changed every six months for standard smoke alarms. Smoke alarms with 10-year lithium batteries do not require battery changes (but the smoke alarm should still be tested monthly for proper function.)
  • Families should have two escape routes out of the home and have a meeting place for everyone to gather outside of the home.
  • Home escape/evacuation drills should be practiced at least twice a year using different ways out of the home.
  • If the smoke alarm sounds, get out and stay out; never go back inside.

Photo cutline: Orange County Fire Rescue firefighters participate in a “smoke alarm blitz” in a local neighborhood.

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