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The City Journals

Change is Good When It Comes to Smoke Alarms

Oct 07, 2016 02:54PM ● By Travis Barton

The South Salt Lake Fire Department will host an open house from Oct. 9 to 15 at their three fire stations from 5 to 7 p.m. each night. (Rodger Hoffman/South Salt Lake Fire Department)

By Travis Barton | [email protected]

When was the last time you purchased new smoke alarms for your home? Or changed the batteries? Can’t remember? Well, the South Salt Lake Fire Department wants to help. 

In conjunction with the National Fire Prevention Association, the South Salt Lake Fire Department will host an open house from Oct. 9 to 15. The open house will run at all fire stations in South Salt Lake from 5 to 7 p.m. each night. This year’s event will focus on smoke alarms. 

“It’s an educational process for us to let the homeowners know how important it is to change your batteries and make sure everything is current,” Captain Rodger Hoffmann said. 

The annual Fire Prevention Week has run in South Salt Lake for more than two decades with this being the final year of a three-year effort to educate the public about smoke alarm safety. Hoffmann estimates about several hundred people attend the week-long event every year. 

The campaign slogan for 2016’s Fire Prevention Week is “Don’t wait—check the date! Replace smoke alarms every 10 years.” 

Hoffmann said smoke detectors are best for three to five years. This week affords firefighters the opportunity to educate the public about those smoke detectors like what to look and listen for. 

“This year’s theme is more to educate our citizens, our children on the importance of changing out your batteries,” Hoffmann, a captain of 16 years, said. 

The average life of a home smoke detector is 10 years. Hoffmann recommends replacing the batteries of the smoke detector every six months when changing clocks for daylight savings. 

“Everybody hates changing their clocks so that’s a good point to use to change your clocks, change your [smoke detector] batteries,” Hoffmann said. 

Sometimes homeowners will take the batteries out and never replace them. Hoffmann said they always check homes where fires started to see if they have smoke detectors. 

“Eighty percent of the time they have them in these residential fires, but the batteries they took out,” Hoffmann said. 

During the Fire Prevention Week, men and women of the South Salt Lake Fire Department will be on hand to assist any citizens with questions. 

The week also affords firefighters the opportunity to interact with the community. 

“Our department is very committed to our citizens and the public education side of it,” Hoffmann said. “It’s an opportunity to have the public meet us, ask us questions and put a face to a name.” 

Even though the week focuses on fire prevention in relation to smoke alarms, Hoffmann said in his experience the most prevalent issues revolve around house organization. He stressed the need to keep the space around a furnace free of combustible items. Hoffmann has seen things like gasoline and paint thinners near an open flame. 

“It’s very important to keep things away from your furnace area or anything that could cause an ignition point,” Hoffmann said. 

Fire Prevention Week was established in 1922 on the Sunday through Saturday period when Oct. 9 falls. According to the National Archives and Records Administration’s Library Information Center, Fire Prevention Week is the longest running public health and safety observance on record. 

The week was originally started to commemorate the Great Chicago Fire in 1871 that killed more than 250 people leaving 100,000 homeless and burning more than 2,000 acres. Most of the damage occurred on Oct. 9, 1871, the same day the entire town of Peshtigo, Wis. was destroyed by a forest fire. 

On the 40th anniversary of the fires, the International Fire Marshals Association decided the anniversary should be observed with public information about the importance of fire prevention leading to Fire Prevention Week. 

The open houses will take place at Station No. 41 at 2600 South Main Street, Station No. 42 at 3265 South 900 West and Station No. 43 at 3460 South West Temple.