A Call to Smoke Alarms

Thomas Clark
President, WSFIA

This article is dedicated to a very important program currently underway. WisSAFE – Wisconsin Smoke Alarm and Fire Education. This program has been put together with the dedication of the fire service, several state departments, associations, and organizations. The members of WisSAFE have been working for the past several months to bring the life saving benefits of smoke alarms in targeted homes throughout the State of Wisconsin. The targeted homes for this phase are the families that have children in the elementary level grades. The Wisconsin Fire Inspectors Association knows this age group can be vulnerable because of their inability to escape the smoke and flames of a fire in their own home. The Wisconsin State Fire Inspectors Association has again taken a lead role in this program, and this entire program speaks to our mission and our dedication of protecting the citizens in the State of Wisconsin. The WSFIA Board of Directors has made the commitment to support the goal of providing smoke alarms in residential homes. The program is modeled after the Iowa program in which the State Fire Marshal had success in achieving a similar smoke alarm goal. Fire Marshal Reynolds spoke on the program at the 2011 WSFIA conference, and has since come back to Wisconsin to help us get started.

The program began with meetings initiated by the fire service, and the state fire marshal. Several other valuable members attended the first meetings, and the members continue to grow as the program grows. This takes work from everyone; this is an ambitious statewide initiative and will need to reach out to every family in the target group.

Meetings since the beginning of this year have produced results, and the program is moving forward. The smoke alarms that will be provided will be the dual sensor, 10 year tamper proof battery. The goal is to make each home safe, and it may take several units to properly provide this safety according to the size and layout of the home. It was decided to start with one pilot site, the Osceola school district was chosen because of the medium size of the district. The pilot site handed out surveys to the children, which would give us the number of households in the district and will give us an idea state wide of the households that are in need of smoke alarms. The next task was the tedious job of compiling that data. Kidde, the smoke alarm company, has generously donated smoke alarm units for the pilot program to get started. Next fire fighters in that area will be going out in the field to install the smoke alarms and provide the basic fire prevention education.

There are many components of WisSAFE. One of the first goals was to get all of the stakeholders together. Determine our goals, and break down the program into workable initiatives. One of the projects was to create the needed forms. Other projects included compiling the data from the school districts into a usable program, and to get the schools the information for their buy-in to this program. Future work to be done will be the telephone calls and knocking on doors for corporate monetary support so the smoke alarms may be purchased. Logistics such as where to store the smoke alarms, and how to distribute them throughout the state will also need to be developed.

WisSAFE will be reaching out to the entire state. The pilot program was an educational experience for all involved. Now the program will be going forward on a much larger scale. Graduating from the pilot program schools, and out to every community in the state is a giant step, but a step that must be accomplished for the safety of our families, and neighbors.

This entire program has many benefits. The obvious benefit is protecting families with school age children, and gives them the early notification in case of a fire. As we know, there are far too many people still suffering needless injury and death from fire. Injury and death that many times can be avoided with simple tools, such as smoke alarms and residential fire sprinklers. This program will give fire fighters a great public education tool and get them into homes on a personal level. This will also give local fire departments an opportunity for public relations. We will be in many homes proving to the families of Wisconsin, from the youngest to the oldest member, that the fire service is dedicated to their safety.

Not only is the fire service and first responders there to respond after a tragic event, but we are there as a prevention tool and being proactive to prevent tragedies to families. Fire fighters will be installing the proper amount of smoke alarms in the proper locations in order to give the best smoke alarm notification in case it is needed.

The enthusiasm and dedication of everyone involved has been overwhelming. There are many departments, associations and people making this ambitious project come together and provide this service to the citizens of Wisconsin. Working with the several departments and associations around the state has the benefit of earning the respect of each other, and several other fire prevention and education projects have been accomplished as a result of this program.

We will need the help of everyone in the fire service, along with interested groups and the sponsors to sustain this project and in the future include other target groups such as senior citizens. The WisSAFE project will need to continue for many years, there will always be a maintenance component and fire prevention education to assure our citizens remain safe in their own homes.