Fire Marshal updates smoke detector program

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Fire Marshal with resident discussing fire escape plan

Tampa Fire Marshal Milton Jenkins, right, discusses a fire escape plan with a resident in East Tampa while Inspector Steve McCullars, back, installs a smoke detector in the hallway of the home. Photo by Jason A. Penny

    The Tampa Fire Marshal’s Office  has revamped its smoke detector program which provides smoke detectors to Tampa residents in historically low-income neighborhoods. The program, modeled after the American Red Cross’s Home Fire program, does more than just simply hand out smoke detectors to residents which was one element of the program in previous years.

“We felt in the Prevention Office that the Red Cross was the most comprehensive method of  helping residents escape fires in the home,” said Tampa Fire Marshal Milton Jenkins.
    Jenkins updated the program after partnering with the local American Red Cross chapter in supporting the Home Fire program. Typically Red Cross volunteers would work in groups of three during neighborhood canvass events. One volunteer would install smoke detectors while andother would do an assessment of the home with the resident and come up with a sound escape plan that the resident and his or her family could use in the event of a fire. A third volunteer would document the visit and keep a record of how many smoke detectors were installed.
   After discussions with the Red Cross program managers the Fire Marshal proposed having just one of the Inspectors perform all of the functions using the smoke detectors provided by the Red Cross. “Our inspectors are all fire professionals so it just makes sense that they can handle the install, escape plans and documentation,” Jenkins said. 
    Another change with the new program is that smoke detectors will be installed in accordance with National Fire Protection Association guidelines. Whereas before one smoke detector would be handed out, now inspectors will install the number of detectors based on the NFPA standards which state that smoke detectors should be installed in each bedroom, outside of common sleeping areas and on each level on the home. Inspectors are installing the new ten-year, sealed-battery smoke detectors mostly provided by the Red Cross. Additionally, the First Alert company donated 200 ten-year smoke detectors and have already been installed in many homes in East Tampa neighborhoods. “We’re fortunate to work with the Red Cross and First Alert,” said Jenkins. “Our new program has gotten off to a good start. We just want to make sure we can do whatever we can to prevent tragedies like what happened in September from happening again.” Jenkins was referring to a house fire that happened in the early morning of September 1 when a 61-year-old grandmother and her three young grandsons perished due to a lack of smoke detectors in the home. “I’m sure that family would still be alive today if they’d had working smoke detectors in their home,” Jenkins said.