"SAFETY - FIRST DAY of the Month"

Media Contact: Mark E. Brady, Chief Spokesperson, 240-508-7930, mebrady@co.pg.md.us

"SAFETY - FIRST DAY of the Month"

One of the initial fire safety additions made by incoming Fire Chief Marc Bashoor in 2011 was to establish a philosophy of safety. This philosophy is not only geared toward firefighters and medics being safe during the course of their shift, but is also directed at our citizens and residents. "SAFETY FIRST - Ensures Everyone Goes Home," is designed as much for those we serve as for those serving. If all homeowners maintained working smoke alarms in their homes, their families would benefit from the early warning of a fire and exit their home safely. The Prince George’s County Fire/Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Department would also benefit, as an early notification would enable us to respond and extinguish a fire before total damage could occur. A working smoke alarm in a Bowie home recently demonstrated that both the family and firefighters survived and were able to go home. No firefighters were injured and operated with minimal exposure to the extreme dangers of the job.  A Lewisdale family had no smoke alarms in their home and the consequences were tragic.

As an extension of the "SAFETY FIRST- Everyone Goes Home" program, we will remind all citizens and residents of monthly basic smoke alarm tips. This will ensure they are afforded the constant protection of a working smoke alarm. On the first of every month, the Fire/EMS Department will remind everyone the day is "SAFETY - FIRST day of the month," the day on which smoke alarms should be tested to make sure they are working. Included with each monthly reminder will be other safety tips associated with smoke alarms. We encourage everyone to take advantage of these tips. We further encourage fire departments and citizens and residents across the country to use these safety reminders, as well.

The Fire/EMS Department will also expand our SAFETY FIRST smoke alarm initiative by requiring all 45 of our Fire/EMS Stations to visit their communities and make contact with a minimum of 40 homes per month. Firefighters will discuss fire safety within the home and test smoke alarms. If a new smoke alarm is needed, they will install one free of charge.

The life and death significance of having working smoke alarms was demonstrated in two recent incidents. Both of these incidents involved fires occurring in single-family homes around 4:00 A.M., while family members slept. One home had a working smoke alarm; the other did not.

On November 25, 2011, firefighters responded to the 14100 block of Pleasant View Drive in Bowie, where a family was awakened by an activated smoke alarm just after 4:00 A.M. One family member was able to exit the home on his own, while other family members sheltered in place. They were unable to escape, due to the high heat and thick smoke that filled their second floor bedroom hallway. Firefighters arrived, extinguished the fire, and rescued the four trapped occupants.

On November 27, 2011, just before 4:00 A.M., firefighters responded to the 2400 block of Griffen Street in Lewisdale for a house fire. The crews arrived and found heavy fire and thick smoke coming from the one-story, single-family home. One family member escaped; however, three others did not. Two adult females and one child died from smoke-related injuries. It appears they became aware of the fire and attempted to escape but were too late. The heat and smoke had already filled their hallways and bedrooms, making an escape impossible. The fire was located in the front of the house; they were sleeping in the rear. They were unable to escape in time to save their lives, as the home did not have a working smoke alarm. They were therefore not afforded an early warning.

Firefighters canvassed the Lewisdale community the day of the tragic incident, expanding efforts to check smoke alarms countywide the next day. Results were alarming. In some areas, there was a 40 percent of the homes did not have a working smoke alarms. In December, a smoke alarm initiative, “Safety First – Home for the Holidays,” was instituted. This program had firefighters going door-to-door for two hours every Saturday and Monday. These campaigns showed that on an average, 20 percent of county homes do not have the protection of a working smoke alarm. The national average for homes not afforded the protection of a working smoke alarm is 25 percent. Of those, 4 percent of that figure includes homes that have no smoke alarm whatsoever. However, in this small percentage is where over 50 percent of all residential fire deaths occur.

"The number of homes without working smoke alarms is unacceptable, and we must do our best to ensure every home and every family is protected," stated Fire Chief Bashoor. "Personal responsibility on behalf of our citizens and residents to maintain working smoke alarms is the only way to achieve our mandate that every home and every family is protected by a working smoke alarm." He concluded saying, "We, the career, civilian, and volunteer members of our Department will continue to do our part to keep our citizens and residents aware of the importance of smoke alarms and make these life saving devices easy to obtain."

County residents can receive a working smoke alarm installed in their home, free of charge, by calling 301-864-SAFE (7233) or on-line by clicking here.