Engine 46 stresses importance of smoke detectors

It’s a sad scen­ario that Phil­adelphia fire­fight­ers see all too of­ten: cit­izens suf­fer­ing in­jury or death in a res­id­en­tial fire with no work­ing smoke de­tect­ors in the home.

Smoke de­tect­ors might not be able to save fire vic­tims from loss of prop­erty, but there’s little doubt they help pre­vent in­jury or loss of life. On April 18, mem­bers of the Phil­adelphia Fire De­part­ment’s En­gine 46 spread that mes­sage to mem­bers of the Up­per Holmes­burg Civic As­so­ci­ation.

“There should be one smoke de­tect­or on every level of the home,” said Lt. Tom Loftus of En­gine 46, which is based at Frank­ford and Linden av­en­ues.

Ac­cord­ing to Loftus, two en­gine units provide the primary cov­er­age in Up­per Holmes­burg. En­gine 46 is the lead unit as far south as Ash­burn­er Street, while En­gine 36 at Frank­ford and Har­tel av­en­ues is the main re­spon­der south of Ash­burn­er. But de­pend­ing on the cir­cum­stances, either en­gine com­pany or oth­ers may end up as “first in.”

Non­ethe­less, both en­gine com­pan­ies en­gage in fire pre­ven­tion ef­forts in the com­munity. At the civic meet­ing, Loftus offered to sup­ply res­id­ents with new smoke de­tect­ors with long-last­ing lith­i­um bat­ter­ies for free. The fire de­part­ment will even in­stall the units.

The same of­fer is avail­able to any city res­id­ent by call­ing the city’s non-emer­gency 311 tele­phone hot line, Loftus said. Res­id­ents can re­quest new smoke de­tect­ors and sched­ule their loc­al fire unit to in­stall them, al­though there may be a wait­ing peri­od.

Un­der the law, Loftus said, all homes in the city must have work­ing smoke de­tect­ors, al­though that’s dif­fi­cult to en­force. Fire code in­spect­ors en­sure that all new res­id­en­tial con­struc­tion is fully equipped with smoke de­tect­ors.

Ac­cord­ing to the fire lieu­ten­ant, do-it-your­selfers should re­mem­ber that smoke rises, so de­tect­ors should be moun­ted to the ceil­ing on each level of a home, in­clud­ing the base­ment. It’s ad­vis­able to in­stall the units at the stair­wells.

For folks who already have smoke de­tect­ors in­stalled, the city of­fers free re­place­ment bat­ter­ies. Most de­tect­ors have a but­ton to test bat­tery life. Many bat­ter­ies are rated to last only six months. So the fire de­part­ment em­ploys a “change your clocks, change your bat­ter­ies” pub­lic in­form­a­tion cam­paign twice an­nu­ally.

Sadly, Loftus said, some res­id­ents are their own worst en­emies for fire pre­ven­tion. They take fresh bat­ter­ies from their smoke de­tect­ors and in­stall them in non-es­sen­tial devices, like TV re­motes or video game con­trol­lers.

“Then the de­tect­or won’t work when they really need it,” Loftus said. ••

You can reach at wkenny@bsmphilly.com.

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