by Martine Costello, American Red Cross of Massachusetts
Three Questions on Fire Safety with Adam Lavoie, Fire Chief with the Warren, Mass. Fire Department
Fire safety starts with properly installed smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. We recently spoke with Adam Lavoie, the Warren Fire Chief, about his department’s participation in an inaugural program with the Central Massachusetts Chapter of the American Red Cross to distribute free smoke detectors to residents in need.
Can you talk about the importance of fire safety and the need for working fire detectors?
It is a proven fact that people have a much greater chance of escaping a fire or carbon monoxide emergency with early notification from working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms. Unfortunately, it is an all too common occurrence to find no working detector in fatal fires across the country every year. I believe this is often due to a lack of fire safety education, or a lack of resources to keep the units installed and running. Far too many times we find missing or disabled smoke and carbon monoxide alarms during routine safety inspection.
Why are programs like this one so important?
We find that the elderly population is at greater risk due to mobility and financial reasons. These issues contribute to their inability to properly maintain detectors. We also see an increase in hoarding situations in all populations that we serve, which is making it very difficult for people to get out of their residences and for the fire department to get to them in an emergency. Again, this is another reason why early notification is so important.
How did the program work alongside Red Cross staff and volunteers?
We advertised ahead of time and got a great response. A majority of those who signed up were elderly. I really wanted to target that population the most due to their increased risk. We went door to door and my team installed the units while the Red Cross team presented some tips and guidelines on fire safety and preparedness, the care and maintenance of the units and how to prepare an escape plan. Mary Nathan, Disaster Program Manager for the Western Chapter of the Red Cross, led the efforts alongside volunteers James Street, Nick Street, Debbie Schaier and Roger Parent. It was a great team effort and we were able to install units in more than 20 homes.
The residents were very appreciative and in many cases the homes didn’t have any working detectors. The next day we had plates of cookies and donuts dropped off as a thank you – people were so appreciative. Best of all, within the next couple of days we had five-to-six people contact the fire station asking if we were going to do the program again. We are hoping to make this an annual event.
Do you have any additional thoughts to add?
Educating the public is our most important job. By providing education, replacing smoke and carbon monoxide alarms and being proactive with safety inspections, we can hopefully prevent a tragedy before it happens. Once a month we visit the elementary school to deliver fire safety education and target third and fourth graders. During Fire Prevention Week, a national program, we target all grades. We also work with the Council on Aging to provide education to the elderly residents of the community.