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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Firefighter Remains Hospitalized in Good Condition - Search for Working Smoke Alarms - Not So Good

A firefighter remains hospitalized in a Burn Unit after suffering significant burns in a fire this past weekend. Kentland Volunteer Fire Lieutenant Christopher Rutter, 31 years of age, remains in the Burn Unit at the Washington Hospital Center where he continues to receive treatment for his burn injuries. He sustained the injuries while battling a fire in a row of townhouses in the 9000 block of Continental Place in Landover on Saturday, January 15, 2011, at about 3:30 am. Rutter was involved in interior operations when he fell through an opening on the first floor into the basement. He was able to self rescue and discovered his burn injuries after the fire had been extinguished. He was transported by paramedics to the Burn Unit where he expected to remain for a few more days. He is in good condition.

The Continental Place fire escalated to a Second Alarm and caused an estimated $100,000 in damages. The townhouse of origin was vacant and currently undergoing a remodel. The cause of the fire remains “under investigation.”

After significant incidents and while community interest is still high; firefighters and paramedics return to the community and go door-to-door providing fire safety and injury prevention material. Personnel also ask residents if they can check their smoke alarms. If a smoke alarm is found to be non-working or missing, firefighters will install a new smoke alarm; free of charge. On the morning of the Continental Place fire; firefighter/Medics conducted our Post Incident Neighborhood Intervention Program (PINIP) and knocked on nearly 160 residents doors. Of those homes firefighters had contact with 53 residents allowing personnel to enter their homes and check smoke alarms. Of the 53 contacts we found 23 smoke alarms non-working or missing. These homes were provided with new smoke alarms.

Previous PINIP’s identified an average of 25% of homes visited did not have a working smoke alarm, this PINIP produced a 43% failure of homes to have the life-saving protection of a working smoke alarm. Across America, more than 3,000 people die each year in residential fires; most in homes that lack the simple, inexpensive and effective protection of a working smoke alarm. On January 1, 2011, an adult male died in a Temple Hills house fire that he probably would have survived if the home had a working smoke alarm.

The smoke alarms that are currently in place in homes throughout Prince George’s County have unquestionably saved countless lives, however some serious challenges still exist for the Fire/EMS Department to achieve our goal of assuring that ALL homes in our community are properly protected.

After the New Years Day fire with a civilian fatality, Prince George’s County Acting Fire Chief Marc S. Bashoor instituted a new and aggressive initiative to ensure every home has at least one working smoke alarm.

The “Safety First” initiative will build on the Department’s existing smoke alarm programs to either directly or indirectly touch every residential structure in Prince George’s County in the next six months. Bashoor is working with houses of worship, homeowners associations, civic associations, and of course our local fire and EMS stations to immediately make this a sustained priority effort.

Acting Fire Chief Bashoor feels strongly about working smoke alarms in every home and stated, “It is important for everyone to understand, that the best staffed, best equipped, and best funded Fire Department may not be able to save you in time, on their own. We must accept the personal responsibility to help ourselves, to make ourselves safety conscience and improve our home preparedness and safety. It will not cost you anything to plan a quick escape route and family reunification plan for you and your family, and it won’t cost you anything to look at ways to improve safety in your home. I challenge every one of our residents to accept the personal responsibility to make sure you have a working smoke detector on every floor of your residence, and to make safety first in your everyday lives.”

Citizens and residents should follow these simple steps to ensure your smoke alarm is working and that you and your family are protected:

• Push the test button on the face of the alarm. If an audible alarm does not sound; replace the battery or replace the entire alarm. This test should be performed monthly.

• Clean your smoke alarm by dusting or using a vacuum to clear any dust that may have accumulated on your alarm.

• Change the battery in your smoke alarm at least once-a-year. Firefighters use the changes in Daylight Savings Time to remind everyone to perform this important function. Change Your Clock – Change Your Battery.

• If your alarm is more than 10 years old – replace it with a new one.

• A working smoke alarm should be installed on every level of your home. Prince George’s County Law mandates at least one working smoke alarm in your home. Firefighters recommend one be installed on every level of your home.

Citizens and residents should contact our Safety First Smoke Alarm Line at 301-864-SAFE (7233) and make arrangements to have a member of our Fire/EMS Department visit your home and install a working smoke alarm; free of charge. You may also apply on-line by clicking here.