Fire prevention week: Updated smoke-detection systems crucial
Ask Marc Forman and Rick Chase about the importance of Fire Prevention Week, a nationwide program which runs today, Oct. 6, through Saturday, Oct. 12, and you’ll get exactly what you’d expect from two veterans in the field of fire suppression: Safety comes first in homes and businesses.
Forman, owner of Prescott-based Alarm Electronics & Communications for the past 40 years, says it’s a big deal in the Quad Cities’ schools, too, which erect banners courtesy of the event’s sponsor, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).
Each year, the NFPA develops a theme. For 2019, it’s “Not Every Hero Wears a Cape. Plan and Practice Your Escape!”
“We need to teach kids about fire safety,” Forman added. “Don’t ignore alarms.”
Operational, modern smoke detectors and gas detectors are the first line of defense against fire. Forman tells homeowners, for example, to check/service their detectors “the first time you turn on your heat or air conditioner” every year. That includes homeowners with fireplaces and pellet stoves.
If the plastic on your smoke detectors is yellowing, that’s a good sign your detectors are 10 years old or older, Forman said, and they must be replaced. In fact, it’s an NFPA mandate.
Even if you think your old smoke detectors’ batteries and lights are operational, you can get lulled into a “false sense of security,” he added. Good, name-brand detectors are sufficient for most needs.
Over the past 30 years, building codes have required smoke detectors in every bedroom and common hallway. New homes have even stricter standards, as detectors should be placed above stairway landings and in breakfast nooks, dining rooms and areas adjacent to kitchens.
Underwriters Laboratories (UL) has instituted a new standard, requiring better smoke-detection systems. Triple detectors can determine whether someone’s smoking, there’s a fire, or if there’s carbon monoxide in a room.
In commercial spaces, Forman said there are often more sprinklers than smoke detectors.
Each year at the NFPA Expo, updates to the National Fire Codes are announced. Forman tells his clients about what the building codes require, although he will make his own suggestions regarding enhanced protection. Forman said almost every hotel chain has advanced early warning systems in their hotels. He’s served on code-making committees, which deal with emergency lights, signs, sprinklers and fire alarms, to make them more uniform.
“We work really close with fire marshals to interpret the code,” he added. “I’m always happy to help.”
Chase, fire marshal for Central Arizona Fire & Medical Authority (CAFMA) in Prescott Valley, said this year’s NFPA theme of “Not Every Hero Wears a Cape. Plan and Practice Your Escape!” fits in nicely with the association’s past messages of trying to get people to remember fire safety.
CAFMA serves an area of 365 square miles, which primarily includes the communities of Prescott Valley, Chino Valley, Williamson Valley, Highland Pines, Ponderosa Park, Canyon Estates, Dewey-Humboldt, and most of Paulden.
Chase tells residents and/or business owners that effective fire protection features sprinklers, alarms, hood suppression systems and fire extinguishers, which should be serviced annually, if not semi-annually. They must be accessible and meet code requirements, said Chase, who’s worked for CAFMA for the past 22-1/2 years (seven years as fire marshal).
During Fire Prevention Week, CAFMA keeps brochures at each of its 10 fire stations and spreads the word on its Facebook page about the importance of planning and practicing escape routes and meeting places if there were ever a fire at your home, school or business.
Coupled with working smoke detectors and an escape plan comes testing that escape plan twice a year, Chase said.
“Make sure there are two ways out of every room,” he added. “If someone’s impaired or if there’s a baby [in your home], make sure they’re part of the plan to leave. Grab that person, call 9-1-1, and establish a meeting place.”
During a practice drill, Chase advises people to make their smoke detectors go off and determine how they would crawl through the smoke to leave.
“You need [to decide on] a second way out before an emergency happens,” Chase said. “You may think irrationally when there’s a fire. Can I go out my window? Make this more of a habit [to know what you’re going to do].”
For businesses, CAFMA has developed a fire inspection program in which Chase, members of his five-member crew, and/or firemen and women check businesses twice a year, once a year or every other year.
“We’ll perform a business inspection with employees and business owners, educating them about the International Fire Code and making their buildings safe,” Chase said.
Care homes in the Quad Cities must have mandatory fire escape routes and Chase and his crew make sure those routes are posted indoors.
“It’s great to do fire prevention every year,” Chase said. “It’s a good reminder and we touch on important themes. Everybody gets educated and practices.”
Doug Cook is a reporter for The Daily Courier. Follow him on Twitter at @dougout_dc. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 928-445-3333, ext. 2039.