Smoke Detectors No Substitute For EDITH

Smoke Detectors No Substitute For EDITH

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The Editor’s Opinion Page

There are a lot of people in this country, including some in the fire service, who seem to feel that the home fire and smoke detector is the greatest thing that has happened since the invention of the automatic sprinkler. But this detector has only one function and that is to alert the occupants of a home that there is a fire. Once alerted, the occupants should leave their home by the quickest and safest route possible (it might mean dropping from a second-floor window).

The routes available, however, should never include going down a stairway up from which the smoke and heat are ascending as indicated in a current TV commercial. Nor should it include traveling to the alerting detector where the heat and smoke would be the greatest.

Both of these hazardous actions are pointed out by a fire instructor in this month’s Letters to the Editor, page 17. He advises quite properly that “when a smoke alarm alerts building occupants, the occupants should leave in a direction just opposite to the vertical or horizontal area that funneled the smoke and heat to the smoke detecting appliance.”

Fire departments for years have been teaching the proper way to exit from a home threatened by fire. We refer, of course to Operation EDITH—Exit Drills in the Home. But perhaps, in view of the competition it is getting from TV commercials, some refresher courses had better be started.

EDITH is no simple operation. There are five steps in the plan, one of which calls for the occupants of a home to select two means of escape from each bedroom. The last step has the family meeting outdoors at a predesignated location. Poppa and Momma and three kids conceivably could have each taken a different escape route and it would be well to count heads.

Operation EDITH does call for an early warning device against fire. However, in purchasing and installing such a device, a home owner will need some reasonably expert advice and instruction. And logically, he should turn to his local fire department for help. It was for this reason that the United States Fire Administration prepared a series of smoke detector public education manuals to teach the fire prevention community the basics of home smoke detectors. One of the basics is that a detector must be maintained—tested regularly and examined and cleaned.

So, there is more to smoke detectors than meets the eye, particular on the 19-inch tube. This more, of course, must be gotten over to the public by the local fire department.

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