Smoke Detector Credited with Saving Three Lives
LEIGH T. HOLLINS–On December 1, 1998, the Cedar Hammock-Southern Manatee Fire Department`s program of installing smoke detectors in homes paid off in a big way–it was credited with saving three lives.
On May 18, 1998, Carla Douglas was folding laundry in her East Manatee County, Florida, home when a pan of grease on the stove caught fire. She called 911. Our firefighters responded. The fire caused minimal damage.
The on-scene lieutenant, noticing the absence of smoke detectors in the home, discussed the smoke detector program with Douglas. Following the criteria of the program, he installed a working detector in her home, as he had done in many other homes in the past.
On December 1, 1998, at about 2 a.m., Douglas awoke to the beeping sound of the detector firefighters had installed seven months earlier. When she entered the living room, she couldn`t see through the smoke, which was banking down the walls. She woke her two children, ages one and seven, and they exited the house. She called 911 from a neighbor`s house and returned to her home. She was able to extinguish the fire with pans of water.
When firefighters arrived, the fire was out, although the home was full of smoke. A multiplug-type power strip had ignited a cardboard box and pillow sitting on top of it. The fire spread to nearby curtains before being extinguished by Douglas. Douglas feels certain that she and her children would not be alive today if the firefighters had not installed the working smoke detector in May.
The program, begun by Southern Manatee, was adopted by Cedar Hammock (these districts now operate as one department under an inter-local agreement), and was recently merged into a statewide smoke detector program enacted by the Florida State Fire Marshal`s Office and sponsored by Radio Shack. Both programs were almost identical, and the Florida Fire Marshal`s program offered several benefits that enhanced the original Cedar Hammock-Southern Manatee program, including the obtaining of detectors at no cost and having access to two state-level contact people to answer our questions or assist us. n
n LEIGH T. HOLLINS, a 21-year veteran of the fire service, is a battalion chief with the Cedar Hammock and Southern Manatee Fire Districts in Manatee County, Florida, and director of Starfire Training Systems, Inc. He is a Florida-certified firefighter, EMT, fire officer, fire inspector, and fire science instructor. He has an associate`s degree in fire science and is a member of the editorial board of Fire Engineering and the FDIC educational committee.