Smoke alarms can help you stay safe in the Vail Valley |

Smoke alarms can help you stay safe in the Vail Valley

Al Bosworth
Special to the Daily
Vail, CO Colorado

As a member of the fire service for almost 30 years, I have seen all too many times the devastation fire can incur on people and their homes. Watching a household endure the loss of their most valued possessions is simply heartbreaking. But there’s no greater horror than to witness a family suffer the aftermath of one or more loved ones who have perished in a fire. What’s most tragic about so many of these incidents, and I must admit sometimes frustrating, is that the fatal outcomes often could have been prevented with the presence of properly installed, working smoke alarms.

Each year, nearly 3,000 people die in home fires; many of those deaths could be avoided with the proper smoke alarm protection. The nonprofit National Fire Protection Association’s statistics show that while working smoke alarms cut the chance of dying in a fire nearly in half, roughly two-thirds of all home fire deaths result from fires in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms.

People have grown so accustomed to seeing smoke alarms in their homes that they feel adequately protected by them. The public’s complacency toward smoke alarms and fire safety in general must change. With a greater understanding and respect for fire’s potentially devastating impact, people can start taking the steps necessary to better protect themselves and their families.

The National Fire Protection Association’s recommendations include a smoke alarm installed in all bedrooms, and at least one on every level of the home (including the basement), and outside all sleeping areas. It is also recommended that smoke alarms be interconnected, so that when one sounds, they all do. Most residents are not aware of the two types of smoke alarm technologies available – ionization and photoelectric. Ionization smoke alarms are generally more responsive to flaming fires – like a pan fire or smoke from cooking. Photoelectric smoke alarms are generally more responsive to smoldering fires – like a cigarette, overheated wiring, or something hot like a space heater. Both types of smoke alarms should be installed in your home or combination ionization and photoelectric smoke alarms that take advantage of both technologies. Unfortunately, many homes in Eagle County, and in communities throughout the U.S., still do not have this level of protection.

As the official sponsor of Fire Prevention Week, Oct. 3-9, the National Fire Protection Association is promoting “Smoke Alarms: A Sound You Can Live With!” to better educate the public about recommendations for smoke alarms, and the steps they can take to best protect their homes and loved ones. Vail Fire and Emergency Services is actively supporting this campaign by visiting the area schools in Vail during Fire Prevention Week.

Vail Fire and other fire departments in the valley are doing their part to educate residents about the importance of installing and maintaining smoke alarms appropriately. But the true safety of your family lies with you and your willingness to take the steps needed to protect your home and family from fire. Our sincere hope is that everyone participates in one or more of these activities, and starts working toward a community safe from fire.

Al Bosworth is a fire engineer with Vail Fire and Emergency Services.

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