Safe Community Project


Smoke Alarms Save Lives

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It’s a fact: Smoke alarms save lives. MySafe:LA, the Los Angeles Chapter of The Safe Community Project has been delivering and supporting the proper use of smoke alarms in LA schools and older adult communities. The MySafe:LA smoke alarm initiative began in late 2012, and during the past 18 months, more than 6,000 smoke alarms have been provided to citizens in Los Angeles for free. These homes were made safer due to the efforts of 4th and 5th grade students, who learned to become Jr. Fire Inspectors. The Los Angeles Fire Department has recently jumped on board the smoke alarm initiative, and has also been providing smoke alarms to those in need. It’s a big city, so there’s plenty of room for fire safety messages from multiple organizations.

The Safe Community Project is fully committed to getting smoke alarms into homes where needed, and to ensure they’re installed and properly maintained. Studies from multiple organizations have demonstrated that simply giving smoke alarms away, as some fire departments do, is ineffective and wasteful. That’s why The Safe Community Project and our Los Angeles Chapter, MySafe:LA are creating a unique cadre of “smoke alarm installers.” These individuals are visiting people who need smoke alarms installed, and are assisting with that process. For those who cannot afford installation, the “Bucket Brigade,” as they’re called will provide the installation at no charge. The Safe Community Project picks up the fee for the installer team.

We call them the bucket brigade because it mixes fire tradition with fire prevention,” says David Barrett, Managing Director for The Safe Community Project and Executive Officer for MySafe:LA. “Everything the installer needs is in the bucket, so there’s a fun play on words, but the key point is we’re getting alarms into homes that need them.”

According to the National Fire Protection Association, the death rate per 100 reported home fires was more than twice as high in homes that did not have any working smoke alarms (1.18 deaths per 100 fires), either because no smoke alarm was present or an alarm was present but did not operate), as it was in homes with working smoke alarms (0.53 per 100 fires).

The death rate from reported fires in homes during 2007-2011 that had at least one smoke alarm (0.61 deaths per 100 fires) was one-third (36%) lower than in homes that had no smoke alarms at all (0.95 deaths per 100 fires). Installing smoke alarms is the first step. It is important to be sure they are working. Surprisingly, the death rate was much higher in fires in which a smoke alarm was present but did not operate (1.94 deaths per 100 fires) than it was in home fires with no smoke alarms at all. In Los Angeles, that death rate tops 90% relative to fatality fires in which there was no working or present smoke alarm. MySafe:LA is working to not only reduce that statistical number, but to change people’s behavior relative to maintaining smoke alarms in their homes. It’s all part of a MySafe:LA initiative called “FireSmart:LA.”

To ensure the best possible smoke and fire protection is working for the people MySafe:LA supports, the organization partners with First Alert, a leading manufacturer and distributor of fire safety products, including alarms. “We’ve worked with multiple vendors relative to securing smoke alarms for our programs, but First Alert is a partner for us,” Education Director Cameron Barrett notes. “They are clearly a business, but they serve a huge need for the community, and partnering with us makes a huge difference in people’s lives.” MySafe:LA also collaborates with the LAFD, providing the department with multiple forms of educational and support materials, video, and other content.

In the fall of 2013, MySafe:LA began an initiative aimed at older adults relative to fire safety and smoke alarms. Called “Fire Burns. Smoke Kills.” the program helps older adults set expectations and gives them tips on taking action to make their homes safer. “This year, working with partners such as First Alert, we are targeting thousands upon thousands of installed and working alarms in homes that have been without them,” says David Barrett. “This is a concern for everyone in LA, including Mayor Eric Garcetti. We want to be part of the solution and we’re working hard to make that happen.” MySafe:LA initiatives include videos, PSAs, podcasts, web content, and live in-person presentations.

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