OAKLAND — The Oakland Fire Department is out to make town residents safer by installing free smoke alarms in homes.

The effort is aimed at educating residents about the importance of keeping working smoke alarms in the home and having an emergency plan to get family members to safety if a fire does break out, said Tony Thibodeau, the Oakland firefighter coordinating the program.

Having a working smoke detector in the home can make the difference between life and death when it comes to a fire, but there are a lot of people who either don’t have smoke detectors in their home or have smoke detectors that don’t work, Thibodeau said.

“In my experience, it is a very, very big issue,” he said.

When he went door-to-door last weekend to advertise the program, he found a number of houses that didn’t have any working smoke alarms. One family had two high-school age children and a wood burning stove for heat and still didn’t have detectors, he said.

“It brings a different perspective when you go into these houses and they have kids and don’t have a single working smoke detector,” Thibodeau said.


Oakland residents who want to have a free detector installed in their home can contact the Oakland Fire Department by Thursday. Two-person teams will be going out on Saturday to install the detectors.

The smoke detectors are provided through the American Red Cross Home Preparedness Campaign. The program started in 2014 and aims to cut the number of deaths and injuries caused by home fires by 25 percent over the next five years, according to the program’s website.

A 2004-2005 study commissioned by the National Fire Protection Association found that at least 96 percent of U.S. households reported to have at least one smoke alarm, leaving approximately 5 million households without an alarm.

In its September 2015 report on smoke alarms in U.S. home fires, the association reported that the risk of dying in a house fire was halved in houses with working smoke detectors. According to the association, between 2009 and 2013, the death rate in home fires without working smoke detectors was 1.18 deaths per 100 fires, compared to 0.53 deaths per 100 fires in homes that had working detectors.

Just having detectors in the home isn’t enough, Thibodeau said. People have to make sure that they are on and functioning. Some people he’s talked to just assume that the smoke detector they installed more than 10 years ago is going to work just as well as it did when they bought it.

“It’s just like anything. Your equipment, computer, phone, whatever, it’s going to go bad over time,” Thibodeau said. Ideally, a smoke detector should be installed in every room of the house, he added.


“People think it’s just bedrooms you should have them in, and that’s not the case,” he said.

Thibodeau and other firefighters will be working in teams of two to install smoke detectors on Saturday. One team member will install detectors, while the other will help residents draft an emergency plan to get out of the house safely in case of a fire.

So far, about 32 households have signed up to receive the free detectors, and more people can sign up for the program by 3 p.m. Thursday, Thibodeau said. Residents can call the fire department at 465-2631.

Peter McGuire — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @PeteL_McGuire

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