Consumer Story

Smoke Detectors Can Help Save Lives 

by: Lauren McMillen

The following video was produced for a journalism class at West Virginia University.

MORGANTOWN, W.Va.-  It is the piece of plastic that we all count on to protect us from a fire- a working smoke alarm.

This simple device can mean the difference between life and death, but for many homeowners, like Phyllis Smith, they are waiting too late.

“It was about 11:30 p.m. and we started hearing this beeping and it kept going and going and we wondered what it was,” said Smith.

Luckily for Phyllis, she was able to get out safely. However, that’s not the case for everyone.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, nearly 3 out of 5 fire deaths have happened in homes with broken detectors or with no smoke alarms even installed.

Morgantown Fire Chief Mark Caravasos said he has seen this all too often.

“Usually you come to find that the smoke detector was inoperable, either through dead batteries or the batteries were taken out of it. That’s where the maintenance issue comes in, making sure you are taking care of those things. A smoke detector with a dead battery is the same as not having one at all,” said Caravasos.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission advises that devices should be installed in all bedrooms on each level of your home and placed high on the ceiling.

Officials at the West Virginia State Fire Marshal’s office say nearly 900 lives could be saved each year if everyone would take the time to grab their detector, change the batteries, and make sure they are working.

As for Phyllis, she says this scare will make her think twice next time.

“The one we had was from 1999 and this is 2014. I’m surprised that it held up that long, but that is kind of why it was dying,” said Smith.

Fire officials also encourage everyone to have an escape plan on hand.

Click here for a copy of the script.

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