McMinnville Fire Department will soon be increasing its protection efforts to city residents with a new program that will offer free smoke detectors, installed and inspected.
The program is called “Install, Inspect, Protect” and it’s for individuals who meet certain guidelines. Department employees will purchase, install and maintain smoke detectors in the homes of those individuals.
Need is the main criteria a person must meet.
“If you can obtain and maintain your own smoke detectors, we urge you to do that,” said firefighter Joey Sweat, “but you do not qualify for this program. This program is for individuals who lack the financial ability to purchase them and/ or the physical ability to maintain them.”
Alarming statistics have the Fire Department going above and beyond its normal job requirements in an effort to be proactive and protective of the citizens they serve.
“On the average, some 3,500 people die every year in the United States in residential fires,” said Sweat. “About 65 percent of which are at night and in homes without smoke detectors or without functioning smoke detectors. McMinnville has seen its share of these types of fires.”
According to the National Fire Protection Agency, between 500 and 700 children lose their lives annually in house fires. The leading cause of fire-related death is smoke inhalation, and having smoke detectors in the home cuts the chances of dying in a fire in half.
Along with senior citizens and people with special needs, the program is also geared toward single-parent households with children.
Because smoke alarms watch over a family 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, former chief Randy Walker wanted to offer them free of charge to local residents who need them, but lack the money to buy them.
“The chief started this program,” said Capt. Kendall Mayfield. “He’s no longer with the department, but we wanted to run with it. It’s a good program we believe will save lives.”
Along with Mayfield and Sweat, the program was pushed forward by training officer Zach Fletcher, Capt. Phil Mitchell and Lt. James Brown.
To increase effectiveness, smoke detectors need to be installed correctly and maintained. Sweat says the program offers both services.
“We will come to your house, install the smoke detectors and do a safety check of your home,” Sweat said. “We will be determining on a case-by-case basis what the future needs are for each household. If we install them, can the individual physically maintain them by changing the batteries? If they cannot, we will do that for them.”
Taking the program from planning to reality were donations from Walmart, Middle Tennessee Natural Gas, McMinnville Electric System and a $2,000 grant from FM Global Fire Prevention.
Over the last 35 years, FM Global has awarded millions of dollars in funding to fire departments and related agencies worldwide.
To qualify, participants must answer a questionnaire that will be posted on the Fire Department’s page on the city’s website at www.mcminnvilletenn.com or by calling the department at 473-6739.
“Once you answer the questions, we can determine if you qualify and to what extent,” said Sweat. “We should have the questionnaire on the city’s website in the next few days.”
The department is also accepting donations from businesses, individuals and corporations to keep the program going. Donations can be mailed to McMinnville Fire Department, 313 E. Main Street, McMinnville, Tenn., 37110. Make checks payable to “Install, Inspect, Protect.”