Many people don’t realize that if a fire starts in their home, they have a very small amount of time to escape – as little as two minutes in some cases. That is why smoke detectors are so important in a household. On March 18, 10 members of St. Petersburg College’s Firefighting Academy Class 49 assisted the Red Cross, Oldsmar Fire Rescue Department and the International Association of Fire Fighters 2980 in providing and installing life-saving smoke detectors in the Gull Aire Village senior community.
SPC’s Public Safety Training Program program director Jim Angle is the retired Palm Harbor fire chief. When he received an email from his union requesting students and off-duty firefighters to assist the Oldsmar Fire Department with a smoke detector installation project, he was happy to help.
“I knew this would be a worthwhile project for our Fire Academy students,” Angle said.
When I asked them to assist, they were happy to do so.”
In this program, the Red Cross partners with organizations like SPC and local fire stations to install free smoke alarms for those who cannot afford to purchase or are physically unable to install them. The Red Cross also installs a limited number of specialized bedside alarms for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing. The students joined teams of three or four people who visited over 120 homes in the senior community, installing a total of 341 smoke detectors. Some teams collected data and provided some fire safety education to the residents, while other team members installed the detectors.
Angle said it is recommended that each home should have smoke alarms on every level, as well as in all bedrooms and outside of sleeping areas, but making sure they work properly is most important.
“Battery replacement is key,” he said. “The new lithium battery smoke detectors are 10-year smoke detectors, which should be completely replaced at the end of their 10-year life. Test the smoke detector by pushing the test button once a month, and you can also dust the smoke detector once or twice a year, depending on dust levels in the area.”
Oldsmar Fire Chief Dean O’Nale thanked the Firefighting Academy, noting, “Service projects like this go a long way to help our newest firefighters understand the importance of community service outside of our traditional roles of fire and emergency medical service responses.”
Angle agreed that the students got a lot out of the experience.
“They experienced team work, community service, interaction with a very appreciative group of residents, and they also gained an understanding of how the fire department’s role in the community goes well beyond responding to emergencies,” he said.