Editorial: Smoke detectors should be in your home

Editorial Board • Nov 26, 2019 at 10:30 PM

Kimberly Brockwell of Greeneville was sleeping soundly Nov. 16 when she woke at 4 a.m. to the sound of a smoke alarm, and a tragedy was averted. She and her husband, their four children and a visiting nephew got out of the house, which was engulfed in flames.

Except for the smoke detector, all seven could have died in the fire, said Jay Wihlen, chief of the United Volunteer Fire Department. “They only had seconds to get out.” No doubt the family will say that smoke detectors were a life-saving investment.

Have you made that investment in your home? If not, put smoke detectors in your home this week. And if you already have them remember that the detectors are no good if their batteries are dead. Replace batteries this week. Tennessee is usually among the 20 percent of states with the worst home fire deaths.

It’s also critical to your family’s safety that detectors be properly placed. A detector upstairs and one downstairs isn’t going to offer you the best chance of getting out in the event of fire. You should install smoke alarms inside each bedroom, outside each bedroom, and one on every level of the home including the basement. On levels without bedrooms, install alarms in the living room and near the stairway to the upper level. As an example, a two-story home with three bedrooms should have a minimum of five smoke alarms.

What to buy? You can pay up to $100 and get added protection, but an alarm you can buy locally for $6 is the First Alert Battery Powered Smoke Alarm with a silence button. That button is only used with a known alarm condition such as smoke from cooking. If you need five alarms, $30 plus tax for this one is certainly well worth the protection it offers your family.

With smoke alarms comes some family education.

Review how each member of your family should escape from their bedroom in case of fire. That’s usually through a first-story window, so be sure the window opens easily and the family member knows how to quickly open it and get out. Review those functions with your family while making certain each member knows the quickest route to the nearest exit from their bedroom.

Pick an outdoor meeting place in view of the front door and at a safe distance. Family members should know to head for that spot immediately and to never go back inside for any reason. Consider purchasing escape ladders for second-floor bedrooms. And practice crawling drills so children know to keep low and under any smoke.

The majority of house fire deaths occur between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m., so you should conduct at least one fire drill after everyone has gone to bed. Be safe. Don’t be sorry.