With the weather cooling down and winter ahead of us, local fire chiefs are encouraging residents to keep their families safe and their smoke detectors operating properly.

October is Fire Prevention Month in Michigan and this year’s theme is “Look. Listen. Learn. Be aware. Fire can happen anywhere.” The state’s home death fire total has already reached 90% of the 2017 total. Through the first 9 months of the year, there have been a reported 87 residential fire deaths from 66 residential fires in Michigan.

Howell Area Fire Chief Andy Pless said that his department sees lot of houses where people have a problem with their smoke detector and then they take them down or don’t do anything with them. Green Oak Township Fire Chief Kevin Gentry echoed this, saying that the biggest thing about smoke detectors is not just that you have one, but that you have working ones. Modern smoke detectors should be good for up to 10 years, with batteries being checked every month, and changed every 6.

Mike O’Brian, Fire Chief for the Brighton Area Fire Authority, encouraged incorporating home fire drills in coordination with monthly testing. He said one of the first things parents should aim to teach their kids once they can speak is to yell “Mom and Dad, I’m right here!” when they hear the alarm. That way, he says, it becomes their initial instinct, and can help them remain calm in a fire situation through adolescence and beyond, like if they move to dorms and rental homes in college.

O’Brian said that in Brighton, 50% of the homes they interact with for either medical or fire runs don’t have working detectors. Chief Pless said that in his 34 years as a firefighter, only once has there been a fatality from a fire where the home had working smoke alarms.

All three chiefs said anyone who needs help with a smoke detector or installing one, should contact their local department for assistance. They say almost every local department has a program to provide the units to those in need and assist with installation. (MK)