A working smoke alarm can mean the difference between life and death

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- When it comes to a house fire, a smoke detector can mean the difference between life and death. ABC7 News recently tagged along as the Oakland Fire Department installed donated Kidde alarms inside homes in several neighborhoods. Here's a look at Operation Save A Life.

"Operation Save A Life is a community program designed to help generate awareness about the need to install working smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) alarms," said Kidde Marketing & Communications Manager Sharon Cooksey, who was on-site during the walk through the community. "We know that working smoke alarms help to save lives, in fact, they double your chance of being able to escape and survive a house fire."

"Every year, we partner with Kidde and we receive a free allotment of smoke alarms to distribute within the community," said Charleton D. Lightfoot Sr., Oakland Fire Department MPA Lieutenant of Fire.

"We donate annually around 4,500 alarms into the Bay Area. Kidde believes, through Operation Save A Life, that no family should ever have to choose between food and fire safety," shared Cooksey, who has visited with Bay Area fire departments the last three years as the spokesperson for this program.

"The fire department is going to be that emergency responder source that's going to show up after we've been notified that a fire occurs," Lightfoot said. "But the first responder on scene is that smoke alarm. The Operation Save A Life program gives us an opportunity to go out and engage with the community and walk into the residence and walk them through some important fire safety tips."

"So actually one of the firefighters, John, approached me and said, 'Hey, we're in the area and we are installing fire alarms, would you be interested?'" said Alfie, Oakland resident and Kidde alarm recipient. "And I was very happy that he approached me, and I said, 'Yes, come on in and let's see what you can do.' He installed them and now I have brand new fire alarms."

"Every alarm, whether it's hard-wired or battery powered, needs to be replaced at least every 10 years," Cooksey said while showing one of the Kidde smoke alarms. "The whole alarm, the whole alarm, not just the batteries. These feature a built-in, 10-year battery, no battery changes ever over the lifetime of the alarm."

"The smoke alarm that we have here, they all have a date on them of when they are expired, and this one says, actually, July 2010," Lightfoot said. "The good thing about the smoke alarms we're putting in today, they're 10 year smoke alarms. Some of the homes that we entered into, we identified that there were no operating smoke alarms. So in the event that there's a fire, this resident had no way of being alerted to make it out safely. And so, we identified that these are definitely homes that benefit from the program today."

The lieutenant feels the day's work made progress to saving lives of community members and firefighters.

Cooksey, meanwhile, encouraged action.

"Please, everyone, look up right now and remind yourself to check your alarms and make sure that they're still working," she said. "Look up on the ceiling and tell me if you've checked that alarm in the past 10 years, or has it been replaced in the past ten years. And here's a really, good key: is it still white? If it's no longer this brilliant white, like it is when it comes out of the box, if it's tan, if it's beige, if it's yellow, or brown, it is probably time to replace it."
Lightfoot shared some final tips.

"If you have a smoke alarm in your home, please take the time to check it once a month," he said. "If you can't reach it and it's high, if you have broomstick nearby, use it to activate the button. Also, every six months, dust it off. We don't want anything to interrupt that smoke alarm to function properly. Dust off your smoke alarms every six months, check it once a month, help us save lives, stay prepared, and promote fire safety."

"If people are interested in how to get one of our donated smoke alarms, please contact your local fire department and ask them if you qualify. They have many, many programs to help people who just can't afford to get a smoke alarm or who don't have the resources to install and maintain them, like senior citizens or someone with special needs." Cooksey and Kidde are proud community partners working toward Building A Better Bay Area with ABC7 and our firefighters.

"Thank you for letting us in your home and remember, be safe, make sure you have functioning smoke alarms within the home, and if you don't, reach out to your local fire service agency and see what type of support or assistance can be provided," said Lightfoot.

Alfie expressed gratitude after the installation, "Thank you for coming out and doing this. Every little bit helps. I appreciate it."

It's important work and this is the 10th year that ABC7 has had the privilege of partnering in the Operation Save A Life campaign along with Kidde, which is part of our Prepare NorCal Disaster Preparedness initiative.

For more information, visit www.kidde.com
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