Many homeowners are aware enough of the value of smoke detectors to purchase them. But how many items that we acquire with good intentions actually go unused? In the case of smoke detectors, it can be a life or death matter. The tragic death of a single mother and her two young children in Orange while they slept early on the morning of Jan. 8 is a case in point.
When investigators made their way through the house that had filled with smoke from a kitchen blaze, they found a smoke detector on the floor of the bedroom. Inside was a working battery that was disconnected. With a detector present but not operational, there was nothing to alert Shawn Silvers as her home filled with smoke.
According to fire operations chief Frank Frasz, the fire was small and did not spread to the rest of the house. We learned last week that a smoldering cigarette in the kitchen trash can was the likely cause.
However, because the house was closed up to keep out the winter cold, it was possible for smoke to fill the house quickly. Frasz noted that the practice of closing houses in the winter poses a problem because smoke could blanket a house quickly.
The Silvers home was one of many outfitted with smoke detectors that aren't operational. According to the National Fire Safety Council, more than 90% of American homes have smoke detectors. However, as many as 20% are not working.
Unfortunately, for this group, the well-intentioned effort to get a smoke detector purchased and even installed is no different from having done nothing.
Winter provides many risks for fire, with Christmas trees, ornamental lighting, wrapping paper and space heaters. Having a smoke detector that is operational can mean the difference.
Capt. Scott Brown of the Orange County Fire Authority urges residents to make sure smoke detectors are in working order. That means checking batteries and installation. Other important precautions include planning exits from rooms and practicing them.
The press of daily obligations may make even the best of such intentions fall short. There are so many household items to attend to, so many projects around that may summon our attention. But the simple matter of getting and keeping up a smoke alarm is worth the extra trouble.
Fire officials say residents should check at least once a month and replace the batteries twice a year. Some suggest making a check when clocks are put ahead or back in spring or fall.