Editorial: Fire last week shows value, necessity of smoke alarms in the home

Jun. 30, 2013 @ 11:38 PM

If a homeowner ever needed proof of the value of smoke alarms, then last week’s fire on Happy Valley Road should clinch it. Firefighters say a fire that broke out in the home could have been tragic had not the children, both under 5 years old, heard the smoke detector sound the alarm. The kids woke up the others, and everybody got out alive and safe.

Without the smoke alarms, Kevin Nunn, chief of the Seymour Volunteer Fire Department, said, the fire would have produced very sad consequences. “The mom and the kids deserve a lot of credit for getting up and getting out,” he said.

There is no excuse for a home not to have working fire alarms. Local fire departments often have them available to give to people and even help get them installed. Newly installed smoke alarms, made possible by the State Fire Marshal’s Office smoke alarm distribution program, are responsible for saving the lives of 19 Tennesseans from fire in a Memphis multi-family residence on May 28, State Fire Marshal Julie McPeak said.

“The lives being saved through our effort constitute proof that working smoke alarms can be the difference between a household getting out safely or a fatality,” said McPeak. “This program not only serves to equip the public with these life-saving devices. It also provides citizens with opportunities to connect with their local fire departments, ask questions and learn about the importance of having and practicing a fire plan.”

When the May 28 fire in the 1100 block of James Street started, all its residents were able to evacuate quickly and safely because of the alarms, which the State Fire Marshal’s Office provided to the Memphis Fire Department for neighborhood installations.

“Seldom do we get a chance to see firsthand how ‘just doing our job’ turns out,” said Battalion Chief Terry Norris of the Memphis department. “In this particular case we were able to absolutely prevent a tragedy from occurring by being pro-active and diligent in our quest to hang smoke detectors and save lives. The men and women of the Memphis Fire Department that serve this community can be proud of job well done.”

The State Fire Marshal’s Office smoke alarm distribution program, which began last November, has saved more than 33 lives across Tennessee, officials say. The fire marshal’s office study of 2011 statistics showed that smoke alarms were present in only 28 percent of the residential fatal fires in Tennessee. By contrast, smoke alarms were present in approximately 38 percent of fatal fires nationally, suggesting that more lives might be saved if smoke alarms were more widely employed and maintained by Tennessee households.

So you really don’t think you need one in your home? Think again.