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Irritating sound saves lives

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LAFD highlights smoke alarms in children’s educational program

By Carol A. Clark

“BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! Smoke Alarms: A sound you can live with,” was the theme for the Los Alamos Fire Department’s fire prevention program this year. There’s nothing more important than to have an early notification of a fire, especially if it’s in the home and the irritating sound from a triggered smoke alarm can and does save lives every day, according to National Fire Protection Association fire statistics.
Assistant Fire Chief/Fire Marshal Mike Thompson said this year LAFD public education team members brought smoke alarm education to nearly 2,000 local students attending kindergarten through third grade at Aspen, Barranca Mesa, Chamisa and Pinon elementary schools and Ark, Horizons and Little Forest Playschool and Children’s, Ponderosa, Quemazon and Sage Montessori schools.
“The kids really seemed to enjoy the training and afterwards sent cards and letters to the department thanking the firefighters for visiting their schools and said that they especially liked Sparky the fire dog,” Thompson said.
Aspen Principal Kathryn Vandenkieboom said the fact that the fire department uses a special trailer equipped with smoke capabilities in its presentations is key to capturing the students’ attention.
“It’s really an effective program,” Vandenkieboom said. “Firefighters in uniform are always fascinating to young children and the trailer is so motivating … they pay so much attention to what the firefighters are saying … having those firefighters educate the students is priceless.”
In 2009, fire departments in the United States responded to an estimated 1,348,500 fires, according to the NFPA. These fires resulted in 3,010 civilian fire fatalities. About 80 percent of the fatalities occurred in homes between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m.
There was a civilian fire death every 175 minutes and a civilian fire injury every 31 minutes in 2009, according to NFPA statistics. There also were 17,050
civilian fire injuries and an estimated $12,531,000,000 in direct property loss.
The early notification of a fire with smoke alarms provides the needed time to escape, which is credited for saving about 8,000 lives each year.
Many of the students returned to school with home evacuation plans following the fire department’s education visit, which included the importance of such plans, Vandenkieboom said.
Thompson described this year’s program as a big success and said he wanted to “recognize the outstanding efforts of the educational team including firefighter Daniel Archuleta, firefighter David Baca, Capt. Mike Baca, firefighter Joseph Baca, firefighter Carlos Esquibel, Capt. Paul Grano, firefighter Shane Grano, firefighter John Kelley, Capt. John Snyder, driver engineer Wesley Walker, driver engineer Matt Williams and Yvette Vigil.
The LAFD is the second largest career fire department in the state of New Mexico. The department provides fire, rescue, emergency medical, public education and life safety services to area residents.