Smoke alarm safety top priority

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 1, 2005

Many residents in the communities of Providence, Mount Pisgah, Butler Springs and Shackleville should feel much safer these days.

The Providence and Mount Pisgah Volunteer Fire Department recently received a $3,750 Alabama Smoke Alarm Initiative grant award from the Alabama Department of Public Health in conjunction with the Office of the State Fire Marshal.

The Alabama Dept. of Public Health along with the Office of the State Fire Marshal picked three counties in the state that have the highest death rates according to the number of fire fatalities in the county, the population in the county, and the county's poverty rates. According to the statistics, the fire fatality rate for 1999-2003 in the state of Alabama reported 2.05 deaths per 100,000 persons. In Butler County, that number is twice as high, with a reporting of 4.67 deaths for every 100,000 persons.

"The main purpose of this program was to make people aware of the importance of having workable smoke alarms in their homes," Bob Grantham, ASAI local coordinator, said. "This is just part of what we do in spreading the word about fire safety."

The Providence and Mount Pisgah VFD went door to door in the communities of Butler Springs, Providence, Shackleville and Mount Pisgah asking residents if they had smoke alarms in their homes. If residents wanted a smoke alarm installed, the VFD did that. If residents had smoke alarms that needed new batteries or simply did not work, they corrected those problems as well.

"The Alabama Dept. of Public Health provided the P & MP VFD with the smoke alarms, and they were installed at no charge to the residents," Grantham said. "They also trained the firefighters on how to install them properly."

He also said that the volunteer firefighters taught residents how to have emergency exit plans in case of a house fire and how to notify 911 in case of an emergency.

The P & MP Volunteer Fire Department hosted a fire safety kick-off last April, along with the help of many people from all over Butler County and the surrounding areas.

"We had kids to come experience what it was like to be in a room filling with smoke," Grantham said. "They could then practice what to do and how to get out if that ever really happened to them."

Grantham said that many people and companies were to be thanked for all of their help and contributions to the April kick-off of the Alabama Smoke Alarm Initiative program, including the Greenville Fire Dept., State Farm Agent Jimmy Gardner, Wal-Mart, many local grocery stores and many individuals from all across the county.

"We even had support and help from outside Butler County, and we appreciate everyone who was involved with this," he said.

The P & MP VFD finished its ASAI project in August. During this four-month period, the VFD visited 274 homes within the four communities. Of those 274 homes, 98 of them received new ASAI smoke alarms. Some homes had more than one smoke alarm installed. 73 homes had smoke alarms that did not work but which were repaired by the volunteer firefighters. The total number of ASAI smoke alarms installed was 137. As a result, out of the 274 homes inspected, there are now 317 working smoke alarms present.

"The new smoke alarms have already saved one life," Providence and Mount Pisgah Fire Chief Chris Hilliard said. "Before, this person did not have any smoke alarms, but we had installed two in the home. We found that 40 percent of the houses in these communities either didn't have a smoke alarm, or they had one that didn't work.

It is so important for everyone to be informed and ready when it comes to fire safety."

Butler County Commissioner Jerry Hartin praised the volunteer fire department for its hard work.

"It takes a lot to get out and do the kind of job they do," Hartin said. "They even installed a smoke alarm at my house."

The Providence and Mount Pisgah Volunteer Fire Department will use the $3,750 grant to help cover the costs and expenses of the department.