Free smoke alarms make Durham homes safer

More than 75 homes in Durham received free smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms, thanks to the Durham Fire Department’s statewide “Alarm for Life” program.

Durham Firefighters (left to right) Kendrick Campbell and Edwin McDonald install smoke alarm in Dupree residents home. (Staff photo by Myava Mitchell)

Durham Firefighters (left to right) Kendrick Campbell and Edwin McDonald install smoke alarm in a home on Dupree Street. (Staff photo by Myava Mitchell)

On Feb. 6, firefighters visited Dupree, Concord, Moline Street, and Dunstan Street to install 16 smoke alarms. They also changed and checked alarms, if needed. They helped identify potential fire hazards within a home, as well.

“We aren’t typically called before an emergency, only in response so when we can get into a house where nothing bad has happened and see we made a proactive difference, it is gratifying,” said Fire Chief Dan Curia. “We leave knowing that we increased a person’s chances of surviving a fire.”

The program targets people who are not able to provide or install alarms for themselves.

“The neighborhood door-to-door canvass happens when a particular neighborhood or area demonstrates they are in need of special attention and education,” Public Affairs Specialist Sierra McKoy said. “If we receive a lot of requests in a neighborhood, eventually we perform a neighborhood canvass.”

The fire department receives about 20 requests monthly, said McKoy, and has distributed hundreds of smoke alarms since the program began 2009. She said the program was started to help seniors and low-income households, but anyone can call for help.

“Residents call in daily for assistance,” Mckoy said. “As soon as we receive a request, a fire fighter comes out either that day or the day after.”

Firefighters install one smoke alarm for each floor of a home, and test the alarm to ensure it works properly. They will also change smoke alarm batteries for people who already own an alarm.

“We saw that there is a need for smoke alarm education in so many neighborhoods and that’s how ‘Alarm for Life’ in the City of Durham came to be,” McKoy said.

That need heightened after a fire claimed a life last November on Dupree Street due to an inoperative smoke alarm in the home.

State law requires landlords to provide renters with operative smoke alarms.  Those who own their homes are not required, which is when the fire departments steps in.

“No one should go to bed at night without having a smoke alarm,” said Fire Marshal Edward Reid. “Everyone should have an early warning detection in case of a fire so you can get out.”