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Newly Installed Smoke Alarms Saves Family of Six

Hermon Fire Department

Hermon, ME -- In January 2005, the Hermon Fire Department received Assistance to Firefighters Grant funding for a community fire prevention program. With the funding, the fire department planned to install smoke alarms with 10-year lithium batteries in every residence in Hermon, a town of about 4,400 people located in eastern Maine.

The family of six living in the home was awakened by a smoke alarm that the Hermon Fire Department had installed just 2 months earlier.

The Department's goal was to install as many smoke alarms as necessary to meet the three levels of protection recommended by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

This meant installing smoke alarms:

  • Outside every bedroom (or one in the hallway),
  • On every level of the house used as living space, including basements, and
  • Inside each bedroom (or any room that may be used for sleeping, such as a den

Hermon firefighters began installing the smoke alarms in April 2005, with the plan to work their way from one end of town to the other until all houses had the needed smoke alarms. At homes that already had smoke alarms installed, they replaced the existing batteries with 10-year lithium batteries. "The race was on to see if we could complete the project before we had a serious incident in a residence that we had not yet visited," says Chief Larry Willis.

At 3:42 a.m., on December 27, 2005, the Hermon Fire Department was called to a house on Mapleleaf Lane , where there was a report of smoke in the basement. The family of six living in the home was awakened by a smoke alarm that the Hermon Fire Department had installed just 2 months earlier. A malfunctioning furnace in the basement had set off the smoke alarm, and when firefighters arrived, flames were shooting out of the firebox and smoke was filling the house.
Because of the smoke alarm's early warning, the entire family evacuated the house without injury.

Hermon firefighters measured the carbon monoxide (CO) in a first-floor bedroom (where a toddler had been sleeping), at 27 parts per million (ppm). (The Environmental Protection Agency has national health protection standards for CO: a 1- hour standard of 35 ppm and an 8-hour standard of 9 ppm.) The CO reading was taken after the doors and windows to the room had been open for a while, so the initial CO level was probably much higher. Carbon monoxide is known to be a leading cause of death for victims of smoke inhalation, and if the smoke alarm had not awakened and warned the family when it did, they could have been in grave danger. "This incident was our smoke alarm project's first known 'success,' but it certainly will not be the last," says Chief Willis.

The outreach part of the project is complete, but the Department still has smoke alarms for any Hermon resident who needs one. "We estimate that about two-thirds of the homes in town now have smoke alarms as a result of this program," says Chief Willis. "Although the formal grant period has ended, we have 1,000 alarms that will not be outdated for another 9 years, so we will continue to work toward 100 percent coverage."

What They Bought With The Grant:

  • Smoke Alarms
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