On the morning of Aug. 24, some residents of Piedmont will receive free smoke detectors, and some help to install them.
According to Piedmont fire Chief Mike Ledbetter, anyone who either does not have a smoke detector, or has one that is more than 10 years old, is welcome to receive one.
The campaign extends to Piedmont’s 41-square-mile fire district. Volunteers from around the city have offered to help with installation, while church groups plan to provide breakfast for firefighters and volunteers.
Piedmont’s campaign is part of a statewide program called “Get Alarmed, Alabama” that makes smoke alarms available to Alabamians in need. The program is organized by nonprofit InTouch, the Alabama Fire College and the state fire marshal's office. Local fire departments assist by installing detectors for those in their area.
Anniston, Jackonville and Oxford’s fire departments also offer installation, according to the website of the Alabama Fire College, which provides training and certification for firefighters. Angel, Eastaboga and Webster’s Chapel volunteer fire departments are also listed. According to the website, the program’s primary intent is to assist the elderly or those unable to purchase an alarm.
Jeff Waldrep, Anniston’s fire marshal, said the city’s Fire Department is not holding a specific day to install detectors, but residents can call to set up a time for an installation. Waldrep said Anniston will hold a canvassing campaign in November to help find people in need of a detector.
Ledbetter said his department decided to use the program to try to get the word out about fire safety.
“We’ve never had the opportunity to do a full-blown citywide campaign,” Ledbetter said. “We’ve been told that they’ll supply as many detectors as needed. That gives us an opportunity to find as many people as we can. That’s an opportunity that we’ve never had before.”
Ledbetter said smoke detectors are a vital tool to help prevent harm by making people aware of the danger of a fire as early as possible. He said one working smoke alarm on each level of a home is recommended.
“There are a number of toxic gasses that are produced. They numb your senses and put you into a deeper sleep,” Ledbetter said. “If you don’t have a smoke detector to wake you up, that increases your risk of dying in a fire.”
According to statistics from a 2019 report by the National Fire Protection Association, 57 percent of all home fire deaths in the U.S. from 2012-2016 occurred in homes where either no smoke alarm was present or an alarm wasn’t working.
“There’s been several instances during my time at Piedmont where people have said their smoke detector woke them up,” Ledbetter said. “In my six years as chief, we’ve had five fatalities. Whether a detector would have helped, you can’t say for sure. We’ve had people tell us that their detector woke them, or woke a kid up, and alerted them to the smoke.”
Waldrep said the Anniston Fire Department has seen similar experiences.
“We’ve had instances where people have said they were woken up and saved thanks to their detector,” Waldrep said. “Unfortunately, it’s gone the other way sometimes where we’ve found people inside.”
Ledbetter said residents of the fire district interested in signing up to receive a smoke detector on Aug. 24, or anytime after, can call the fire station at 256-447-3364. Statewide residents can request a detector by visiting alabamafirecollege.org/smokealarms.