NFPA Journal®, May/June 2005
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While reading the latest edition of the NFPA Journal [March/April 2005] I noticed several articles that dealt with the unfortunate outcome of fires in houses with no smoke detectors and other articles stating that detector-equipped structures save lives. The message was quite clear, smoke detectors save lives.
What was less clear was what steps to take to stop the needless, avoidable fire deaths. All of us in the fire service have seen people dying for the same reason repeatedly. How many times have you heard the talk, “if only they would have had smoke detectors?”
The City of Pontiac, Michigan, in 2004, took steps to end this avoidable tragedy. An ordinance was passed that was said to be the most strict in the nation (although I have no knowledge of this), requiring smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in rental housing units.
The ordinance requires that each rental unit within the city shall place lithium, tamper-proof, and carbon monoxide detectors (in accordance with current construction code) within 90 days of passage of the ordinance. The ordinance was passed in February of 2004. Further, the ordinance requires hard-wired, battery-backed-up, interconnected smoke detectors to be mandatory, again as with placement per current code, on the following schedule: one-third of an owner’s rental properties in 2007, another one-third in 2008, and the final third in 2009.
It has been our experience that many property owners are opting to hard-wire right away, thus only paying once for the same property. Fire Prevention personnel do acceptance testing and signoff. The owner retains a copy of our signoff sheet, as do we. The owner benefits from insurance breaks, as well as documentation to use in the event of a tragedy. There are also legal penalties written in for owners who fail to comply and for tenants who remove detectors.
Lives are being saved by the ordinance. It works. Since its passage, we have had one fire death, and only then when a tenant willfully defeated a detector.
For more information, contact Chief Wilburt “Skip” McAdams at Pontiac Fire Department,
We would also like to add that smoke alarms are the residential fire safety success story of the past quarter century. Smoke alarm technology has been around since the 1960s. But the single-station, battery-powered smoke alarm we know today became available to consumers in the 1970s, and since then, the home fire death rate has been reduced by half. Most states have laws requiring them in residential dwellings.
Important: Working smoke alarms are essential in every household. It is necessary to practice home fire drills to be certain everyone is familiar with the smoke alarm signal, and to determine if there are any obstacles to a quick and safe evacuation (including the inability for some to awaken to the smoke alarm signal).
Additional factors to consider
I read with great interest the article on the “Great Escape” by Kevin G. McGuire that was published in the NFPA Journal of the March/April 2005 Issue.
In addition to the key points that were were highlighted in the developing of an evacuation plan, I wish to add a few more points:
Escape Consult Mobiltex
Seeking more support
As a Certified Fire Safety Instructor who trains staff who work with people with disabilities, I am encouraged by your recently published article entitled “The Great Escape: Developing an evacuation plan for people with disabilities” [March/April 2005]. It was a well-presented article with many good tips concerning the needs of people with disabilities, particularly about the development of a disability evacuation plan. I am also encouraged by NFPA’s commitment, as expressed by NFPA’s president, James M. Shannon, to fully address the safety needs of people with disabilities through careful planning and training.
Where I am discouraged is when I scour every NFPA training catalogue as soon as it arrives at my desk to see if there are any suitable videos to use to train staff who work with people with developmental and other cognitive disabilities. I am always disappointed as there are none. I have contacted NFPA several times to ask that such a training video be developed, but to my knowledge, none has. Maybe with this new interest and commitment, your education department could look at developing appropriate training materials, which reflect the varied needs of people with disabilities. By some estimates, about seven percent of the
David Plowright, MHS
Potomac Center, Inc.
In January, NFPA began distributing an Evacuation Training package with print and video/DVD components, produced by Kevin G. McGuire, who wrote the NFPA Journal article.
The Disability Evacuation Plan Set is a complete toolkit that helps safety directors develop and implement evacuation plans that comply with Americans with Disabilities Act standards.
The package includes:
For more information, visit NFPA's Online Catalog.
In this Section:
New technology requires more training
Smoke in elevated train injures 73
Fighting for equality for people with disabilities
Protect against freezing year-round
|In A Flash
Bills offer an economic incentive
Letters to the editor
Preventing cooking fires
2004 NFPA Treasurer’s Report