Innovative Detector Program Takes Realistic Approach
The Editor’s Opinion Page
Although it is too early to make conclusions, there are indications that smoke detectors are responsible for reducing fire deaths in residential occupancies. Louis O. Giuffrida, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, recently commented, “The early warning provided by detectors is perhaps our greatest weapon in the fight to save lives and prevent injuries from fire.”
In Canada, the Quebec Ministry of Municipal Affairs issued an annual fire report that stated, “Since 1978, repeated publicity campaigns promoting the installation of smoke detectors have contributed to cutting down on the number of fatal fires and deaths in the residential sector.”
While there are many smoke detector voluntary campaigns and mandatory laws throughout the United States, an innovative approach to expanding the use of smoke detectors is being made in Phoenix that particularly appeals to us. Starting this month, the Division of Fire Prevention of the Phoenix Fire Department is installing 1500 smoke detectors in residential occupancies in one section of the city. This is a pilot program financed with a $10,000 grant from the Independent Insurance Agents Association that will cover the cost of the detectors.
The innovative feature of this program is that residents who voluntarily asked for smoke detectors to be installed by Phoenix fire inspectors will actually pay for both the detectors and yearly maintenance by the fire department with a $1 a month charged added to their water bills. Besides testing and cleaning the detectors yearly, the fire department also will replace the batteries, thereby eliminating what has been found to be the greatest problem with smoke detectors—human neglect.
This program makes a lot of sense because not only will it pay for itself financially, but if the pilot program is successful, the recouping of costs will allow the program to be expanded to other areas of Phoenix. Furthermore, the annual return of fire department personnel for maintenance is a built-in opportunity to talk fire prevention and safety to the residents.