Fire Alarms & Kids

January 30, 2003
Posted at: 9:24 p.m. CDT

JONESBORO, Ark. -- Children are often taught at a young age the importance of not playing with matches, but it's up to adults to make sure their homes are properly equipped in case of a fire.

At least one Region 8 woman knows first-hand the value of a smoke alarm when it comes to protecting her children. Her home was destroyed in a fire and she realizes the fire could have easily taken her kids away from her.

Cindy Primm realizes the importance of having a working smoke alarm in the home. She and her family recently experienced a fire that completely destroyed everything they own.

"It just totally rips my stomach out," Primm said.

The fire started in the middle of the night when both she and her husband were sleeping. Her three children were not at home that night. Burned-out ruins are what is left of her daughter's bedroom.

"Oh my God. Had they been here, it would have been a totally different story."

Primm escaped from the fire through her bedroom window. She had a smoke detector positioned in the right place right outside her bedroom, but it never went off.

"It hadn't been working properly," Primm said. "That's why it never went off."

Since that tragic incident, and the thought that her children would have lost their lives, Primm handles smoke alarms differently.

"Aggressively," Primm said. "Very aggressively."

Jonesboro Fire Marshal Leonard Jadrich says that of the fires his department responded to this year, a large percentage of the homes didn't have a working smoke alarm.

"We go to fires all the time where people have just barely escaped because people didn't have working smoke alarms," Jadrich said. "I bet you it's close to about 75-80%."

Each year fire kills more Americans, according to the Federal Management Fire Administration, than all natural disasters combined. Those most at risk in fires are senior citizens, and children under the age of 5.

Mike Smith is with the Safe Jonesboro Coalition. He is in the business of making sure underprivileged homes in Jonesboro have a working smoke alarm. He installs them free of charge, because the real profit, he says, comes from saving a sleeping child.

"A smoke alarm is the cheapest life insurance policy you can have," Smith said. "If I'm sound asleep, I'm not going to see it. I'm not going to smell it, until it's too late."

Now that you know the importance of having a smoke alarm, where do you put them?

"Definitely one outside the bedrooms, at least one on every floor of the house," Smith said.

He says you don't want them outside the bathroom, or in the kitchen. That is because the next time you cook bacon, he guarantees you'll take out the battery and forget to put it back in.

Also, alarms should go above the door headers, door frame or on the ceiling.

"Someone came up with the great idea of changing them every time you change the clock, so it's every 6 months," Smith recommends.

It takes approximately five minutes for an entire house to be engulfed in flames, and it only seven seconds for a smoke alarm to detect a fire. Seven seconds that could mean the difference between life and death for a family.