After a recent house fire in Burton that resulted in four people being injured in a home without a working smoke detector, the Beaufort County Fire Chief Association’s (S.E.T.) are mobilizing forces to warn and educate county citizens on the importance of having working smoke detectors in their home.
Firefighters throughout Beaufort County have been responding to local fires all year and are seeing a reoccurring theme; homes with properly placed and working smoke detectors have better outcomes when a fire strikes then homes that do not.
Captain John Robinson of the Beaufort/Port Royal Fire Department states that in 12 instances where their department responded to a house fire in a home that had a working smoke detector the residents were able to either escape the fire, or were able to extinguish the fire, before firefighters arrived due to the early warning of the detectors. While the Burton Fire District has had similar successes, Burton Firefighter Daniel Byrne also states that two of the three fire deaths that occurred in Burton occurred in homes without working smoke detectors, and homes without detectors suffered more damages than those that had them. In the third fire death for Burton it is not known if a smoke detector was present but it is not believed there was one.
Byrne states that one in four homes will experience a fire warranting a fire department response, and an average fire will go from a small spark to fully engulfing a room in three to five minutes due largely to today’s construction and what are in our modern homes; such as, treated wood, plastics, and chemically treated upholstery and carpets, which burn faster and are more toxic than ever before. “Early warning is paramount,” Byrne says. “It gets your family out and gets us there faster to possibly save more of your home.”
Scott Harris, spokesman for the Lady’s Island/St. Helena Fire District, adds that not only is having a smoke detector important, but having a plan for what to do when the smoke detector activates is just as important for your family’s safety. “What will you do if the fire is between you and your exit? What if the fire is on the first floor and you’re on the second?” Harris states. “Can you get out of your windows, and keep in mind if you can’t get out of your windows then firefighters can’t get in either.” Firefighters stress the importance of checking all windows to ensure they are clear of furniture and vegetation, and can be easily opened from the inside.
Lieutenant Lee Levesque of the Bluffton Fire District offers some basic guidelines for smoke detector installation:
• Inside and outside all bedroom areas, and on every living level of your home
• Less than 10 years old and with a battery backup
• Three feet from corners, air vents, and ceiling fans
• Center of the ceiling, or no less that 4” but not more than 12” if placed on a wall
• Checked weekly and batteries changed twice a year, firefighters suggest doing so at daylight savings time when changing your clocks.
Lieutenant Levesque also recommends following the manufacturer’s instructions when installing your smoke detectors, and to call your local fire department for help if you have any questions. “All county departments pride themselves in providing excellent services to our citizens, anything involving safety we are your “one stop shop” for assistance, information, and presentations.”
The S.E.T. Team is an extension of the Beaufort County Fire Chief’s Association and is comprised of firefighters from each county department responsible for providing all risk safety education to the public. If you would like to invite firefighters for a safety presentation at your event please call your local fire department.