© Heather Taweel - The Guardian
John Anthony Langdale, left, and Jason Peters, president of the Prince Edward Island Fire Fighters Association, stand by a pallet of smoke detectors and batteries that will be handed out to Islanders as part of a fire safety program, "Armed and Ready."
John Anthony Langdale of Rusticoville choked back emotion as he remembered how a smoke alarm saved his life and the lives of his two young sons.
Langdale attended a news conference in Charlottetown where the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC), P.E.I. fire marshal’s office and the P.E.I. Firefighters Association announced a campaign called Alarmed and Ready that will see 1,400 smoke alarms handed out along with 1,404 replacement batteries to homes that already have smoke alarms.
Langdale, the golf pro at Rustico Resort golf course, recounted how on Jan. 7, 2012, he experienced first-hand how important it is to have a working smoke alarm.
“My boys and I were having a guys night, so to speak. My wife went out for the night and, for that reason, we were together, fortunately, in my bedroom. As the evening went on we fell asleep and awoke to the screeching noise of the smoke detectors,’’ Langdale said, pausing to compose himself.
“I was very, very fortunate to be able to grab both my boys and get out of the house. It’s only having gone through the experience that you realize how little time you have.’’
As it turned out, Langdale and his sons had moments to get out.
“Without (the smoke alarms) I wouldn’t be here, nor would my boys. Needless to say, in our new home we’ve got quite a few spares of smoke alarms and batteries, both hard wired and static.’’
IBC donated $12,000 to buy 1,400 smoke alarms and all the batteries. They will be handed out to individual fire departments which will distribute them, either by going door to door or by holding an open house. Each department is expected to get 30 to 60 alarms. There simply isn’t enough money to get one for every home.
“Simply put, smoke alarms save lives,’’ said Amanda Dean, vice-president of the Atlantic division of IBC.
Jason Peters, president of the P.E.I. Firefighters Association, said it was his department (New Glasgow) that responded to the fire that destroyed the Langdale home.
“No one wishes to experience a fire in their home but if it does occur we certainly like to hear stories like John’s as opposed to the alternative,’’ Peters said.
Dave Rossiter, the provincial fire marshal, said he can’t put into words how frustrating it is investigating a fatal fire where there was no smoke alarm or one with no batteries in it - they’ve attended too many autopsies and interviewed too many grieving family members.
“I interviewed John after assessing the damage on site where his house once stood. While interviewing John on the events that took place that evening one of his boys came into the room. I cannot really express or put into words the raw emotion that came over John’s face when he looked at his son and realized his life was spared due to a working smoke alarm,’’ Rossiter said.
Rossiter said the average family has three minutes to get out of the house in any type of fire and that is being generous.
“The vast majority of fatalities that have occurred in the last 10 years (on P.E.I., more than) 90 per cent are attributed to no working smoke alarm,’’ Rossiter said.