PDT Staff Writer
Portsmouth Fire Chief Bill Raison is urging residents to change the batteries in their clocks and smoke detectors Sunday, March 8 when they set their clocks ahead for Daylight Savings Time.
“I would encourage everyone, ‘change your clocks, change your batteries’,” Raison said. “That way you don’t ever have your batteries go dead in your smoke detectors.”
Raison said it is common that people take out fully operational batteries when they make the switch.
“Put it in something that your life doesn’t depend on,” Raison said. “Use it somewhere else. Don’t leave it in your smoke detector to go dead.”
Raison gives a lot of credit to the invention of the smoke detector.
“I would say the smoke detectors, probably of all the advances in the fire service in the last hundred years, and there have been a lot. We have come a long way from hand-drawn and horse-drawn carts to the equipment that we have today,” Raison said. “But the smoke detector has done the most for the public, the individual.”
Raison said things have been created to help provide working conditions and safety for the firefighter, but the smoke detector has been the best invention for the public’s protection.
“The smoke detector that provides that early warning that lets you get out and has been the greatest advancement the fire service has seen,” Raison said.
“We get to a fire and if there has been early warning it’s not as big. Obviously there is less damage to the property. People have been warned, so they are out and people’s lives aren’t jeopardized at that point. Then, all we have to do is concentrate on putting out the fire.”
Raison said valuable time is lost when they come to a fire where there was no working smoke detector, because they are involved in rescue operations instead of fighting the fire, “especially for us, as short-staffed as we are,” Raison said.
“The fire continues to grow — now the firefighters are in jeopardy. The victims are in jeopardy. Everything is worse.”
In conjunction with the public education program, “Change Your Clocks, Change Your Batteries,” the Ohio Department of Commerce’s Division of State Fire Marshal along with local fire departments across the state are involved in encouraging Ohioans to make it a habit to change the batteries in their smoke detectors at least twice a year — at the beginning and the end of Daylight Savings Time.
One local organization that has dedicated itself to helping to put smoke detectors in homes has been the Ohio River Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross.
“We got a grant last fall from the State Fire Marshal’s office, Lowe’s and the Scioto Foundation,” Red Cross Executive Director Mary Arnzen said.
“It was called ‘Saving Lives Together’ and we contracted with the volunteer fire departments and the paid fire departments that those smoke detectors would only be given out through those people, and the fire departments would install them. That was the main kicker, because lots of times when you hand them out they never get installed. They just sit on people’s cupboards.”
Arnzen said the local chapter deals with a lot of fires every year and they feel by installing the smoke detectors, it will cut down on the number of fires that fire departments and the Red Cross have to respond to.
“We’re hoping so,” Arnzen said. “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink. We can make people aware and just do as much as we can as far as offering the opportunity to them, and we push that as much as we can.”
“The facts speak clearly — only a working smoke detector can save your life,” State Fire Marshal Michael P. Bell said. “Ohioans can greatly reduce tragic fire deaths and injuries by performing the simple task of replacing smoke detector batteries. By taking the time to change the batteries and by testing them monthly, you may save your life, the lives of your family members and your property if fire ever breaks out in your home.”
Bell said firefighters still find that smoke detectors, which typically retail for less than $10, are often not present in homes or are not functional. To date in 2009, 21 people have died in fires reported to the Division of State Fire Marshall. Smoke detectors were present and functioning in only three of those fires.
Arnzen said citizens should contact their local fire department, whether it is a volunteer department or a paid department and ask about getting a smoke detector installed.
Frank Lewis may be reached at (740) 353-3101 Ext. 232.