By Ava Stryker-Robbins
New Yorkers can get free smoke detectors through a program called Sound the Alarm, conducted by the FDNY in partnership with the Red Cross.
To date, the FDNY has distributed and installed over 250,000 alarms in 46,000 New York City households, according to the FDNY’s Assistant Director of Community Affairs Sandra Sanchez. Anyone can get these free detectors by calling 877-RED-CROSS to schedule an installation appointment. Retired FDNY firefighters and Red Cross volunteers will then come and install smoke alarms in every bedroom, and one combination smoke/CO alarm on every floor.
FDNY’s Fire Safety Educator, Captain Joseph Delligatti emphasized the importance of smoke detectors at a recent CB7 Health & Human Services Committee meeting, which followed several tragic fires throughout New York City, including the devastating Bronx fire that caused 19 deaths and 50 injuries, and a recent fire on the Upper West Side that sent two people to the hospital.
According to Captain Delligatti, smoke detectors are important tools because they alert people before they become surrounded by flames. They should be installed in close proximity to sleeping areas, and, upon hearing one go off, people should immediately evacuate and call 911. Early detection will not only save the lives of people who live in apartments that catch fire, but the lives of firefighters as well, Captain Delligatti said. Having smoke detectors is the first step in preventing fires from getting large and dangerous.
Captain Delligatti spoke of many other ways fires can be prevented. Both the Bronx fire and the recent fire on the UWS were caused by space heaters, and important measures can be taken in order to reduce the risk of incidents like these. Space heaters should never be left alone; someone should always be watching in order to make sure they do not fall over or come in contact with any other item. In addition, space heaters should be plugged directly into a wall; no extension cord or power strip should be used. And finally, space heaters should have timers and technology to automatically shut off if they fall over.
Candles are also fire hazards, and there are ways to make them safer. While battery-operated candles are the safest option, candles with sturdy holders also serve as a safer alternative. Also, it is important to make sure that candles are never left unattended. Open flames can easily come in contact with dry objects, such as plants or paper, that can start a dangerous fire.
Stoves should also be closely monitored when in use. Generally, if there is an open flame, someone should be watching it. Captain Delligatti advised to never leave pot handles sticking out in such a way that children or pets may knock them over.
While smoking outdoors is certainly an effective way to prevent cigarette-related fires, Captain Delligatti urged that if people smoke indoors, they should never do so laying down or while on medication that may induce drowsiness. He warned that if there is any risk of falling asleep when smoking, cigarettes should not be used.
Finally, it is important to make sure that fire extinguishers are ABC extinguishers; these are able to put out multiple types of fires. Captain Delligatti explains that these extinguishers are effective because they smother fires so that they lose all oxygen, which causes them to die out. With the wrong type of extinguisher, fires may be able to survive.
The dry winter temperatures can be dangerous if people do not take the necessary precautions to prevent fires. Stay safe, and make sure to call 877-RED-CROSS in order to get free smoke detectors.