By Steven Hoffman
The Union Fire Company No. 1 in Oxford will have 100 smoke detectors to distribute to those in the community who need them thanks to donation from Oxford Feed & Lumber last week.
According to fire company officials, many homes and businesses are left vulnerable because they don't have working smoke detectors, jeopardizing the lives of everyone inside. The key word there, as one fire company member pointed out, is “working.” Smoke detectors don't help if they aren't functioning properly.
“Fifty percent of all homes don't have a working smoke detector,” said Bob Prettyman, Sr., the Chairman of the Board for the Oxford fire company. Homes should have a smoke detector in each bedroom and at least one on every floor of the house.
Rich Terry, a past fire chief and a member of the board of directors for Union Fire Company No. 1, said that 98 percent of all fatalities in fires occur as a result of smoke, not flames, which is one more reason why the early alert that a smoke detector can provide is important.
Larry Drennen, Jr., who owns Oxford Feed & Lumber with his father, Larry, Sr. and his brother, Chris, explained how the donation came about. “The fire company came to us and asked us if we'd be involved in this community service. We said that we'd be glad to do it.”
“It's a great cause,” Chris Drennen said.
While Oxford Feed & Lumber has gotten this effort off to a good start, there is a hope among fire company officials that other businesses might make similar donations. The fire company has never had a supply of smoke detectors donated by a business before, and officials said that they are pleased to be able to hand them out to residents in the area. The Union Fire Company No. 1 serves Oxford Borough and the five surrounding townships, approximately 92 square miles—the largest district for one fire company in Chester County.
Bobby Prettyman, Jr., the deputy fire chief in Oxford, said that if this effort to encourage more homeowners to have a working smoke detector saves one life, then it is worth it.
According to U.S. Fire Administration guidelines, battery-powered smoke alarms should be tested monthly by pressing the “test” button and the batteries should be replaced once a year. The entire smoke alarm itself should be replaced every eight to ten years. For smoke detectors with lithium batteries, they should also be tested once a month. These smoke detectors should be replaced according to the manufacturer's instructions. They caution to never disable a smoke alarm while cooking by removing the batteries.
The U.S. Fire Administration encourages parents to teach their children what the smoke alarm sounds like and what to do when they hear the alarm sound.