OCTOBER 23, 2013

Fire fatality has Fire Marshal urging residents: Check your homes for working smoke alarms

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Scottsdale experienced its first structure fire-related death since 2007. Directly linked to the death was the fact that the home did not have a working fire alarm. “This tragedy could well have been averted if a working smoke alarm had alerted the homeowner to the fire danger,” said Scottsdale Fire Marshal Jim Ford.

Ford said it was ironic the death occurred during National Fire Prevention week. He calls on all homeowners to test their alarms and change out any older smoke alarms this month. “We estimate that in Scottsdale alone, there could be as many as 52,000 at-risk homes because the smoke alarms are 10 years or older,” said Fire Marshal Jim Ford. Any battery or hard-wired smoke alarm that is 10 or more years old should be replaced. A Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study found that 10 years after a smoke alarm was installed, only one-third were still operating properly.

“Smoke alarms are not like fine wine and cheese. They do not get better with age,” Ford said. “The older the alarms, the less sensitive they become and the longer it takes to recognize a fire and alert a family. Since a fire can double in size every two minutes, there isn’t a minute to spare.”

Another concern for Scottsdale Fire is making sure smoke alarms are not disabled. “People take down or disable their smoke alarms for many reasons, but the bottom line is that a smoke alarm won’t do anyone any good if it is not properly installed and working,” he said.

Higher risk individuals also need to have layers of local protection: smoke alarms, sprinklers and knowing two ways out of a home. “Nationally seniors are most likely to have non-working alarms. They also are the second highest group at risk to die in a fire,” he said.

Even though a person may have a sprinklered home, aging smoke alarms must be replaced. “Smoke alarms are the first line of defense. They typically sound before a sprinkler is activated. These alarms provide a very important early warning that gives residents time to leave their home and call 9-1-1,” Ford said.

The Scottsdale Fire Department has a free program to replace smoke alarms in residences owned and lived in by seniors or individuals living with a disability. To sign up to have a smoke alarm replaced, go to https://www.scottsdaleaz.gov/fire/smokealarmrequestform or call 480-312-8000.

Renters need to be aware that the Scottsdale City Fire Ordinance requires landlords to ensure working smoke alarms are in the rental home and are inspected annually.

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