The Harris County Emergency Services District 48 Fire Department (HCESD 48), the American Red Cross, Kingsland Baptist Church and Katy Area Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) members all went door-to-door Saturday to alert residents in the Memorial Parkway community about the importance of having working smoke alarms and to install new detectors in homes where needed — as part of the Home Fire Prevention Campaign.
HCESD 48 firefighters and volunteers, totaling just under 40 people, from the Texas Gulf Coast Red Cross chapter, Kingsland Baptist Church’s 2BecomingOne group and Katy Area CERT started by meeting at the HCESD 48’s Station 3 on Westgreen, and then divided into several teams on separate routes through select sections of the Memorial Parkway community.
Some groups installed the smoke alarms and Carbon Monoxide (CO) detectors while other groups moved ahead of them to identify houses who wanted to have their systems checked. Each team thoroughly checked each house and then installed the needed alarms and detectors if the homeowners alarms were either out of date or not operating properly. Each team also helped the families we met establish an exit plan for when the alarms sound and expressed the importance of practicing that plan multiple times a year.
With the help of Kingsland Baptist Church donating additional funds and a partnership with Ace Hardware – Cinco Ranch, we were able to provide more than the three alarms the Red Cross program provides. All said and done, we installed 172 smoke alarms, comprised of both ionization and photo electric alarms and an additional 45 CO detectors for added safety in the home.
Because no one can know when a fire will occur or what type of fire they will have in their home, virtually every recognized fire authority and safety expert – including the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and Underwriters Laboratories (UL) – recommend having both photoelectric and ionization alarms for optimal protection against flaming and smoldering fires.
Ionization smoke alarms are generally more responsive to flaming fires. Ionization-type smoke alarms have a small amount of radioactive material between two electrically charged plates, which ionizes the air and causes current to flow between the plates. When smoke enters the chamber, it disrupts the flow of ions, thus reducing the flow of current and activating the alarm.
Photoelectric smoke alarms are generally more responsive to fires that begin with a long period of smoldering (called “smoldering fires”). Photoelectric-type alarms aim a light source into a sensing chamber at an angle away from the sensor. Smoke enters the chamber, reflecting light onto the light sensor; triggering the alarm.
Dedicated volunteers of the American Red Cross preparing for the blitz.
“The goal for the Home Fire Prevention Campaign, launched by the Red Cross, is to install 5,000 smoke alarms in the Texas Gulf Coast Region by June and overall to help reduce fire deaths by 25 percent by 2019,” said Jeff Stuart with the American Red Cross.
HCESD 48 noticed over the last several months an increase in residential fires where residents were barely escaping their homes, because they didn’t have working smoke alarms.
“Looking at the data from some of our recent fires, we believe that there were probably several homes in the area that didn’t have working smoke alarms installed,” Fire Chief Jeff Hevey said. “This is a big concern.”
Commissioner Derrick Hughes and Brett Fossum talking about the importance of the smoke alarms with Lt. Simon VanDyk
ESD 48 Commissioner, Derrick Hughes, noted, “Typically, we meet people on their worst day — when a disaster has already happened,” Hughes said. “This blitz gives the department an opportunity to get out and meet our neighbors and educate them on ways to keep them from having a disaster.” He also noted his surprise at just how many homes we found at no alarms or detectors what so ever.
Residents in the area were very receptive in letting the volunteers and the fire department into their homes to check their smoke alarms and install new ones. Many residents were unaware that they had outdated smoke alarms and were very interested to hear what steps they should take in the future to maintain their smoke alarms.
Reports have revealed that in Texas alone, 27 percent of fatal residential structure fires did not have smoke alarm systems present. This number may seem shocking to many, but national statistics show that fires with no working smoke alarms caused an average of 940 deaths per year.
The Smoke Alarm Blitz is just one of many efforts the HCESD 48 Fire Department is planning to increase safety awareness in the Katy area. Lt. Simon Vandyk said a top priority is to bring more programs like the blitz to the area within the coming year.
“We are always looking for opportunities like the American Red Cross’ Home Fire Prevention Campaign,” he said. “I’ve been working in the Katy area as a volunteer firefighter for years, and I’m extremely excited to see that the HCESD 48 commissioners are very supportive in helping us to move toward becoming a fire department of the future, by allowing us to execute and implement safety programs like this.”
Within a week of the blitz, we’ve already had numerous requests for us to bring this program to neighborhoods in the Katy area.
If you would like this program to come to your neighborhood, please watch this video and contact us at CommunityTeam@hcesd48.org or on our Non-Emergency number (281)-578-2518.