McDONOUGH COUNTY — Illinois fire safety officials say that it’s time to replace outdated smoke alarms.
The Illinois Fire Safety Alliance (IFSA) held a press conference in front of the Macomb Fire Department on Tuesday to encourage Illinois residents to install new, 10-year sealed battery smoke detectors. IFSA Government Affairs Director Margaret Vaughn said that 91 Illinois residents died from residential fires in 2019, and that most of those deaths occurred because of a lack of a functioning smoke detector.
“Those people when they went to sleep that night had no idea they weren’t going to wake up the next morning,” Vaughn said. “Tonight, don’t let that be one of your loved ones. Go out and get this new 10-year battery smoke detector for your families.”
Vaughn said that the new model is ideal for landlords since its batteries cannot be removed. With older models, landlords are more at risk of being liable for fires if a tenant decided to remove the batteries. Another benefit, according to Vaughn, is peace of mind.
“Old-school models only have a 10-year shelf life. Even if you put new batteries in tonight, and there’s a fire tomorrow, there’s no guarantee it’s going to work,” she said.
A new law requiring Illinoisans to install the new model of smoke alarms goes into effect at the end of 2022. Vaughn said that the law’s phased-in start date gives residents time to learn about how the importance to install them in their homes.
Rep. Norine Hammond, who spoke during the press conference, helped pass the law in the Illinois General Assembly. Hammond said that smoke detectors have been required in state residences since 1988, but the new law reflects improvements in technology.
“It’s aimed at saving lives, which is certainly the most important aspect, and it makes it easier and more cost effective for Illinois residents to comply,” Hammond said. “We’re very excited to be part of this initiative today.”
Macomb Fire Chief Rick Driskell shared that although it’s been a decade since there was last a fatal fire in Macomb, dying quickly in a residential fire is more likely today than in years past. He attributes that to the use of synthetic materials that didn’t exist in the past, which create toxic gases and accelerate the process that produces deadly smoke.
Driskell said that 30 minutes may have been enough time to get out of a potentially deadly fire a generation ago, but that situation could occur in just three minutes today. Thus, according to Illinois Fire Safety Alliance Executive Director Philip Zaleski, it’s critical to have a sound exit strategy.
“The smoke alarm is the warning device. Families still need to create an escape plan. You only have 30 seconds to three minutes to get out of the house,” Zaleski said. “Create a plan, practice it a couple times a year, and you’ll have significantly greater odds of getting out of that residential fire.”
Zaleski said that the outdated alarms require batteries to be replaced often, so the new model will save homeowners at least $40 per unit they have in their home throughout the course of its lifespan.
The new model, which will beep to notify that it’s time to replace the unit, also comes equipped with a hush button feature. This feature allows users to disable the alarm for 15 minutes when performing tasks like cooking, which could be a nuisance when smoke detectors are placed too close to kitchens.
Vaughn said that the law does not apply to those with newer homes that have detectors hardwired in.
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September 23, 2020 at 03:11PM