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I am deeply concerned with the number of residential fire fatalities in Ohio this year. In the past two years, we have lost 110 to 120 residents each year. So far in 2019, we have lost 90 Ohioans to fire — a sharp increase over prior years. In many of these cases, there were no working smoke alarms. Either the battery was missing, or the smoke alarms simply weren’t present. I’m frustrated because I believe people know the importance of these life saving devices; yet they continue to ignore the proper installation and maintenance of alarms in their homes.
It is possible people don’t understand how quickly fire spreads in the modern built environment —disorienting residents within minutes and with smoke capable of incapacitating them almost instantly. As our community’s life safety experts, we must do everything within our power to make our residents understand how difficult it is to escape a fire in their home. It is imperative we work tirelessly to increase their chances of survival. Our public outreach and advocacy must happen constantly, during educational programs, while on EMS calls, during public relations events, and even in our daily lives.
Our office continues to work diligently to promote the installation of smoke alarms on every level of the home, and inside every sleeping room. Interconnected alarms create an additional level of safety, since all alarms sound simultaneously. New wireless technology allows for inter-connectivity in existing homes without rewiring. Also, I am excited about the new battery power for fire alarms. The 10-year sealed battery will certainly help eliminate the removal of batteries and reduce low-battery nuisance alarms. These batteries will now last the life of the device; as all smoke alarms should be replaced after 10 years of service. Underwriters Laboratories (UL) is finalizing new standards on smoke alarms that will help reduce false alarms due to cooking. As they become available in the next few years, these new and improved alarms will undoubtedly provide a higher level of safety to our residents.
Finally, as we educate our residents about replacing smoke alarms, let’s continue to encourage them to install carbon monoxide alarms in their homes. It is quite simple to add carbon monoxide detection capabilities when replacing a smoke alarm. Across Ohio, we have seen many tragic fatalities due to carbon monoxide poisoning this year. Carbon monoxide alarms are inexpensive and unquestionably provide an added level of safety for Ohio’s families.
I want to thank our firefighters and responders for their dedicated service. I challenge all of you to improve our efforts to get new, interconnected, sealed battery smoke and carbon monoxide detection in the homes in our communities. Together, we can work to reduce the troubling increase in fire deaths in Ohio.