SUMMERSIDE — It was an alarming and disappointing discovery.
Members of the Summerside Fire Department recently visited 180 city homes and found that only 40 had properly working smoke detectors.
The department took on the initiative as part of Fire Prevention Month and was offering smoke detectors and batteries to residents at no charge.
“It is very shocking,” said Summerside fire Chief Jim Peters. “It concerns me that people are maybe taking them for granted. It is still the best firefighting tool we have. They give you an early warning and time to get out and can prevent a lot of damage in most cases.”
The 180 homes inspected were in older parts of the city.
“We did a couple of streets in each ward. We did some in Wilmot and some in the downtown core and we did some houses in St. Eleanors,” added Peters. “We tried to pick areas that were older and the houses have been there for a long time.”
Many homes did have smoke detectors but they weren’t reliable.
“The lifetime of a smoke detector is 10 years. In a lot of cases they’ve just been there a long, long time and not checked and maintained,” said the chief. “When we went to check them they didn’t work so we replaced them rather than give them just the batteries.”
The fire department partnered with a battery company on the initiative and the smoke detectors were purchased the department.
Peters said the public must get the message that smoke detectors save lives.
“Back in the early ‘80s we had three tragic fire within just a few weeks. We lost four people in those fires. At that time, we really went on a promotion because in all three of those fires there were no working smoke detectors,” added the fire chief. “We really went on the offensive with advertising and promoting them. We brought in a smoke detector bylaw and we promote it once a year.
“I don’t know if that’s enough with the results we got.”
Smoke detectors should be checked and the batteries changed twice a year when the time changes.
Peters said with rental units it is the landlord who is responsible for maintaining and replacing smoke detectors.
“We check them on occasion and usually they are pretty good. But it is the individual homeowner that we’re finding that the numbers are alarming.”
He hopes to make the initiative, done for the first time in a decade, an annual event.