Glad I Flunked My Home Safety Check?

Glad I Flunked My Home Safety Check?

Arlington County Fire Department does free safety check

The neighbors were on full alert when the fire engine pulled up outside my home at 11 am on Sunday morning. It was the on-duty crew at Station Eight coming to do a free safety check on my home. At the Arlington County Fair someone said the Arlington County Fire Department (ACFD) will check your smoke detectors and install new ones if you need them, as a public service. I didn’t believe it would be so easy, but it was, and I’m glad I called: my house flunked the safety check. 

The four firefighter/paramedics went through the house, commenting as they went: smoke detector that goes off every time my son-in-law takes a shower? Try putting it on a wall instead of the ceiling. Never put it in the corner of the ceiling. The one that never goes off, even when the steak is broiling and it should be wailing? It was out of date by about a decade. In fact, most of my smoke alarms had outlived their lifespan and because of age or dust, might not have worked if I had had a fire in my house. Several had been removed by my kids because they were annoying (that steady chirping that tells you the battery is low.) Those detectors wouldn’t have saved anyone’s life. 

“We started the safety check program a while back when there were people who died in a fire because their smoke detectors weren’t working,” said Paramedic/Firefighter Jody Marker, who has been in the ACFD for 27 years. “It was tragic because working smoke detectors would have saved those lives.” Lt. Nicolas Calderone said it’s a good idea to get the newer ones anyway, because they come with a lithium battery that lasts ten years, so no more annoying beeps. 

Where should they go in the house? “Definitely there should be one on every floor,” Probationary Firefighter Kevin Della Pucca said. “I personally put one in every bedroom in my house.” That’s the view of a man who fights fires and has kids. And it’s also the view of the official flier put out by the ACFD. 

The team also recommended fire extinguishers, small ones, for the kitchen, the car, and the garage. “A guy was working on his car and it sparked a fire on him,” said Firefighter Sandridge. “His wife was able to save his life by spraying him with a fire extinguisher.” 

CO2 detectors also now come in plug-in versions which alleviate the burden of changing batteries. Della Pucca recommended two per household, one located near the furnace is good, and one elsewhere in the house where the air gets dispersed. “CO2 won’t kill you fast the way smoke will, but it’s dangerous because you can’t smell it.”

What are the most common causes of fires in Arlington? “Overloaded plugs with multiple devices plugged into one outlet or extension cord, space heaters, and kitchen fires,” said Calderone. “And of course, this time of year, Christmas trees.” 

The team was friendly and non-judgmental about the expired smoke detectors. They suggested getting the highest quality device you can buy, and because of their inspection, seven new smoke detectors and three small fire extinguishers are now in place for the holidays. 

Thanks, ACFD, for keeping us safe, and Happy Holidays! 

Most Common Cause of Fires in Arlington:

Overloaded plugs with multiple devices plugged into one outlet or extension cord

Space heaters

Kitchen fires

This time of year: Christmas trees