New Smoke Alarms Help, But They’re Not a Cure-All

You still have to provide other pieces of the safety puzzle.

test your smoke alarm
Even smoke alarms with long-life batteries need testing.

Fire departments and injury prevention organizations like Prevention 1st are celebrating the upcoming implementation of New York State’s new smoke alarm requirements.  As of April 1, all smoke alarms sold in New York must have a 10-year, sealed, non-removable battery, which will undoubtedly prevent a significant number of fire deaths and serious injuries.

While most fires happen during the day, most fatal fires occur at night.  Having even one working smoke alarm in your home reduces the chance of dying in a fire by more than half.  It is difficult to find a more effective, accessible and affordable prevention tool, which is why most states require them in the first place.  Yet people still die in fires on a regular basis.  Why? 

Missing or dead batteries!  Well-meaning people, annoyed by the sound of a dying battery, or by one that is doing its job around a smoky kitchen or steamy bathroom, take out the battery.  So do people who are in immediate “need” of a battery for a remote control or other device.  Regardless of reason, most people have every intention of replacing that battery, but just don’t get around to it, with sometimes tragic consequences.

Ten-year smoke alarms, with long-life batteries that are sealed into the unit, will make a big difference in improving safety.  But there are a few things New Yorkers need to know before they install their new ones and forget about them for a decade.

Test your smoke alarm regularly.  Long-life batteries are just that – but “long life” may not be ten years.  Batteries can and do fail, so continue to test them once a month.

Keep it free of dirt and dust.  Alarms are sensitive and finely tuned; like any appliance, they work better when clean!  Use a vacuum hose or duster to remove damaging dirt.

Be ready to replace it before ten years is up.  A 2008 CDC-commissioned study found that after ten years, 78% of smoke alarms with lithium batteries were that were installed through a public outreach program were still operational.  That leaves 22% that were not.  Keep testing!

Don’t forget the other pieces of the safety puzzle.  The time to figure out who is helping children or elderly relatives escape from fire is not the middle of the night with alarms going off and smoke filling your home.  Develop an exit plan with your family and practice it at least twice a year!

The new smoke alarms, while slightly more expensive, will be well worth the cost in lives saved and injuries prevented.  But they are not a cure-all, and taking a few additional steps will help make your home and your family that much safer.

This article also appeared as an op-ed piece by Prevention 1st president Molly Clifford in the March 23,2019 issue of the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle.

Prevention 1st Fire Safety Poster Contest Winners Announced!

Congratulations to our 1st Place Winners in each category:
Rishaan Shah, Kindergarten, Scribner Road Elementary School
Audrey Mathews, 3rd grade, Scribner Road Elementary School
Julia Thomas, 5th grade, St. Joseph School

Honorable mentions go to:
Hyoju Noh, Kindergarten, Cobbles Elementary School
Adaya Sykes, 3rd grade, Sykes Family Homeschool
Addison Zimmerman, 4th grade, Abelard Reynolds School #42

See all the winning posters here.

And congratulations to fifth-grader Fiston Heca, the lucky winner of a random drawing of all poster artists, who will get a ride on a firetruck to Abelard Reynolds School #42, courtesy of the Rochester Fire Department!

Prevention 1st would like to thank this year’s judges for their work in choosing this year’s winners from more than 200 entries from across the County: New York State Senator Joe Robach, Monroe County Fire Coordinator Steve Schalabba, Rochester Fire Marshal Christine Schryver, and the Memorial Art Gallery Education Director Marlene Hamman-Whitmore.

Posters were judged on both artistic merit and the impact of its fire safety message. All participants will receive a certificate and all posters will be displays at the following locations around the city and county during March:

Rochester Public Library Children’s Center (winners and honorable mentions)
Monroe County Office Building
Rochester City Hall
Greater Rochester International Airport
Rochester Museum and Science Center
Eastview Mall The Mall at Greece Ridge
Canandaigua National Bank
Eastside Family YMCA

Board Member Honored for Service to Students With Disabilities

Brett Rogoff

Prevention 1st Board Member Brett Rogoff will be honored at The Cooke School and Institute’s Food for Thought Gala in Manhattan next month. Cooke is recognizing Brett and his team at Strategic Group for their support and partnership in furthering the mission of the school, which provides special education services for students ages 5 through 21 who have mild-to-moderate cognitive or developmental disabilities and severe language-based learning disabilities. The Strategic Group team has hosted Cooke interns, providing these high school and young adult students with real-world work experiences that help them make the transition from the classroom, and find and pursue their passions.

Through Brett’s efforts, Prevention 1st in partnership with Community Health Strategies brought the BIC play safe be safe! fire safety program to The Cooke School. Originally designed for young children, the award-winning interactive program worked perfectly for this new audience of 14- to 18-year-olds who need to develop life skills.

P1st Fire Safety Winning Posters:

1st Place, 5th-6th Grade: Julia Thomas, 5th Grade, St Joseph School

1st Place, 3rd-4th Grade: Audrey Mathews, 3rd Grade, Scribner Rd. Elementary School
1st Place, K-2nd: Rishaan Shah, Kindergarten, Scribner Rd Elementary School
Honorable Mention: Hyoju Noh, Kindergarten, Cobbles Elementary School
Honorable Mention: Adaya Sykes, 3rd Grade, Sykes Family Homeschool

Honorable Mention: Addison Zimmerman, 4th Grade, Abelard Reynolds School #42

Now’s the Time to Check–Maybe Replace–Your CO Alarms

Test your CO alarm today

In 2011, laws passed almost simultaneously in many states required the installation of carbon monoxide (CO) alarms in most houses, apartment buildings, rental dwellings and hotels. Since most CO alarms have a lifespan of no more than 7 years, yours might be expiring right now.

Old units lose efficiency and can put your family at risk of fatal CO poisoning. CO is invisible and odorless, so an early warning from a working CO alarm is crucial. CO can be created when fuels used in heating and cooking equipment don’t burn completely. Vehicles or generators running in an attached garage can also produce dangerous levels of carbon monoxide.

Some questions you should ask yourself:

  1. Do I have enough CO alarms (and smoke alarms)? The US Fire Administration recommends installing CO alarms in a central location outside each separate sleeping area and on every level of your home (including the basement).
  2. Do all alarms comply with manufacturer instructions and current guidelines about their shelf life? Check the manufacturer’s recommendations (usually on the back of each unit) for how often your CO alarm will need to be replaced. It’s usually 5 to 7 years.
  3. Do I know that every alarm—both CO and smoke alarm—is working? Even units that have life-long batteries or are hard-wired still need to be checked at least every six months. The US Fire Administration suggests checking each alarm once a month. Learn how to test your CO alarm here.
  4. Will everyone in your home always respond immediately and appropriately when any alarm activates? Have you planned your escape route? Have you practiced it? Could everyone do it even if the alarm sounds in the middle of the night?
  5. Can everyone living in my home hear every alarm from any location—especially from their bedrooms? For those that have significant hearing issues, bed shakers and strobe lights can supplement alarms. For all homes, interconnected alarms are recommended. You can convert existing units, both smoke and CO, to be wirelessly interconnected using products available in stores and online. Learn more from manufacturers First Alert and Kidde.

Protect Your Home From Electrical Fires

The cold weather and darkness this month have us turning on lights, heating and appliances. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, that may be why January is the leading month for electrical fires. Today’s electrical demands can overburden the electrical system in a home, especially homes more than 40 years old that have older wiring, electrical systems, and devices.

Protect yourself and your family by making sure all electrical work in your home is done by a qualified electrician and following these tips from USFA:

  • Always plug major appliances–such as refrigerators, stoves, washers and dryers–directly into a wall outlet. Never use an extension cord with a major appliance.
  • Unplug small appliances when you’re not using them.
  • Keep lamps, light fixtures and light bulbs away from anything that can burn.
  • Use light bulbs that match the recommended wattage on the lamp or fixture.
  • Check electrical cords on appliances often. Replace cracked, damaged and loose electrical cords.
  • Don’t overload wall outlets.
  • Never force a three-prong cord into a two-slot outlet.
  • Install tamper-resistant electrical outlets if you have young children.
  • Use power strips that have internal overload protection.

Find more home fire prevention tips and information at USFA’s electrical fire safety outreach materials webpage: https://www.usfa.fema.gov/prevention/outreach/electrical.html.

 

Girl Scouts Learn to Lead With Fire Safety

This fall Prevention 1st trainers delivered the first sessions of the Leadership Development program in fire safety which they developed for the Girl Scouts of Western New York (GSWNY). Sessions held in Rochester and Buffalo, NY drew 34 Scout Cadets, from 6th-graders to 12th graders, eager to learn leadership and fire safety skills. They will each now present 3 training sessions with younger Daisy and/or Brownie troops.

“This is a chance to up their leadership skills and be role models for younger girls,” said Lauren Bush, Assistant Director of Girl Experience for GSWNY. “And fire safety is so important, it’s good for them to hear it from their peers. As leaders, as adults, we can tell kids these things about fire. But when they hear it from their slightly older peers, it really sticks.”

“They were so enthusiastic and committed to playing a role in their community,” said Bob Crandall, Prevention 1st trainer. “For that age group it was very impressive.”

The Prevention 1st training will count toward the senior Scouts’ leadership awards, and toward the younger Scouts’ play safe! be safe! Fire Safety Education patch. Training sessions were held on a day off from school, with some entire troops attending as well as individual girls interested in the training. The Rochester session was sponsored by the John F. Wegman Fund and the Buffalo session by Prevention 1st.

Molly Clifford taught the girls strategies for teaching younger children and presentation skills to keep their audience engaged and learning. Bob Crandall presented the specific fire safety skills they would need to teach the younger Scouts, drawn from the curriculum of the play safe! be safe! fire safety program. The girls then worked in small groups to develop and rehearse their own presentations.

“They came up with creative ways to be “hands on” with skills,” Crandall recalled, “like using newsprint to make “smoke” and then demonstrating the correct way to Stay Low and Go under smoke.”

Bush hopes that as the younger Scouts learn, they will later step up to do the same training for others:

“There’s no better way to show their leader skills. It’s a “pay it forward” skill.”