Tahlequah Daily Press

October 3, 2013

NSU students help donate smoke detectors

Meredith Baker
Special Writer

TAHLEQUAH — NSU, as part of the Tahlequah community, has an opportunity to help save lives by donating smoke alarms to the drive coordinated by Tahlequah Pediatrics and Tahlequah Fire Department.

Brandon Quinn, Tahlequah junior, is a medical assistant for Tahlequah Pediatrics. He is working to help publicize the drive.

“I felt a sense of urgency to become involved in the drive after one of our providers, Angela McConnell, APRN-CPNP, came up with the idea,” said Quinn. “She saw the need after interviewing many of our patients at wellness visits and determining that many of them did not have a working smoke detector in their home.”

McConnell said she asks patients at every well check, and at least half say they do not have a working smoke detector in their home.

After realizing the need, Quinn said he and McConnell visited the fire department to see if they could collaborate on a community initiative to spread awareness and receive donations of smoke alarms.

“In Tahlequah, or any city, there are residents who don’t realize how important smoke alarms are until they are needed,” said Ray Hammons, fire chief. “Smoke alarms probably save more lives than anything else.”

During fires, Hammons said early detection is crucial, because fires can grow faster than people realize. He said the hotter they are, the faster they grow, and the intensity of the fire can double in seconds.

“Eight or nine years ago, there were 13 fire deaths in Oklahoma,” said Hammons. “This is a huge number. Out of the 13, eight of the homes had smoke alarms that were either not installed or had dead batteries. Three of the homes did not have a smoke alarm at all.”

Smoke alarms can seem like an unnecessary expense to individuals who have never needed them, but the expense is less than many realize and can be alleviated for those who cannot afford it through this drive.

“Homeowners need to realize they are required by law to have working smoke alarms in homes,” said Hammons. “Landlords are required by law to provide working smoke alarms in rented homes. It is also important to change the batteries twice each year.”

Not only are they important because law requires them, but they can save lives in the event of a fire.

“Smoke alarms work so well to prevent deaths,” said Hammons. “Smoke alarms wake people up and help them know to get out of the house until we can get to the scene. From my experience, smoke alarms are so durable. I have seen them be completely melted from a fire but the alarm still works. We want Tahlequah residents to realize that if they don’t install them, smoke alarms can’t save lives.”

Quinn said they are seeking community involvement to help to notify the public about the need for smoke detectors so, even if they do not donate one, they may be able to pick one up for themselves before the winter season begins.

“The drive started a couple weeks ago, and unfortunately, we have not received any donations, but that is why we are trying to spread the word,” said Quinn. “The overall goal is to get as many people in Tahlequah and in Cherokee County to get a working smoke detector in their home.”

The donated smoke alarms will be distributed the parents of the patients at Tahlequah Pediatrics.

Additionally, Quinn said they would help the keep the fire department’s supply from dwindling.

“The fire departments keeps smoke alarms on hand for families who can’t afford them,” said Hammons. “Tahlequah residents can call, and we will provide and install smoke alarms for them. There are a couple of stipulations. If they are renters, we will call their landlord, because they are obligated by law to provide them. For homeowners, we will provide and install one.”

Donations can be made at Tahlequah Pediatrics, 1310 E. Boone St., or at Tahlequah Fire Department, 125 E. Chickasaw St.

Each person who donates a smoke alarm will be entered in a drawing to win a $200 Wal-Mart gift card. The drawing is Oct. 12.

For more information, call Tahlequah Fire Department at (918) 456-2424.

Meredith Barker is a Multimedia Studies student at Northeastern State University.