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Justin Crann
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Working smoke detectors vital to fire survival

The two most recent house fires in Moose Jaw had something in common: there was no early warning for the residents.

Insp. Rod Klippenstein, fire prevention officer with the Moose Jaw Fire Department, practices what he preaches and checks the battery on the smoke detector in the primary hallway of Headquarters Fire Station on Main Street.

"They didn't have working smoke alarms," said Insp. Rod Klippenstein, fire prevention officer for the Moose Jaw Fire Department (MJFD). "Those residents were lucky they got out alive."

According to the fire department, it's a common issue.

"We see it more often than we like," said Cathie Bennett, the department's public education officer.

That's a problem, because working smoking detectors top the list of fire safety measures in place in the department's "ideal home."

"They're our number one," said Bennett. "People should make sure they have one just outside of each sleeping area, because a lot of people can't hear them otherwise if they're deep in sleep."

There are other safety measures that are important.

Having a plan in the case of a fire and making sure any children in the home are aware of it is a priority, Bennett said. So, too, are working fire extinguishers.

Keeping the house free from clutter can be a good measure — both because it reduces the combustibles in a home, and makes it easier for people to escape if there is a blaze.

But in many cases, hearing a smoke alarm can be the most vital to survival, she noted.

"Early detection is the most important thing," explained Bennett. "It often doesn't matter how quickly the fire department gets there — the first two or three minutes are critical."

The frequency of house fires without that early detection is disappointing because installing and maintaining working smoke detectors is inexpensive and easy, she added.

But, Bennett said, "people are human and they make mistakes."

Sometimes, they make those mistakes consciously.

"A big one is when they take the battery out of the smoke alarm because it is annoying them," said Bennett. "That's conscious and it's really unacceptable."

But more often than not, smoke detector failure boils down to people disregarding their importance and forgetting to maintain them.

To make that job a little easier, Bennett has a tip.

"We aren't like the rest of the country, who can say when you change your clocks, you change those batteries," she said. "So people should pick a day — a relative's birthday, a holiday, or any day of the year — to change them. And they should check them monthly."

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Organizations: Moose Jaw Fire Department

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