BCSFD Implements New Detector Program
The Belgium-Cold Springs Fire District recently implemented a new Smoke/CO Detector Program. The program, developed by Chief Matt Speach in collaboration with the BCSFD Board of Fire Commissioners, was created after a call earlier this year. BCSFD was dispatched to a smoke/CO alarm activation around 2am. After a quick investigation it was determined that the smoke/CO detector had exceeded its usable life and needed to be replaced. But, the residence only had the one/single detector and that was no longer functioning. Given the time of day (~2am) there were no options to go out and purchase a new detector.
This call identified a public safety concern that led to the creation of a new program for BCSFD, the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detector Replacement Program. Chief Speach explains “We had to customize a solution that would allow us to address this specific public safety concern but, do so in a way that fits within the logistical constraints of an all-volunteer fire department.” There are some smoke detector replacement programs out there but nearly all of them are structured around career fire departments (that have paid firefighters staffing the firehouse 24/7) or utilize use a team of volunteer who are dedicated to that single task. Today, in the volunteer fire service, those resources simply don’t exist.
BCSFD Board of Fire Commissioners Chairperson, Catherine “Kit” Thompson explains “In a perfect world, we would have a group of volunteers dedicated to a more proactive smoke/CO detector program. But, across NYS and the entire US, the volunteer fire service membership levels are down. We hope that someday we will have more volunteers and we can evolve our program into something similar to the Red Cross program. But until that time, Chief Speach has created a program that works for the volunteer fire service, as it exists today.”
Smoke and CO alarms, or “alarm activation” calls, are a common type of call for fire departments. Many times these alarms are “false” alarms due to bad/dead batteries or an expired or malfunctioning detector. Smoke/CO alarms have a usable life somewhere in the range of 8-10 years from the date of manufacture (typically printed on the back of the unit). After the usable life the detector will either start chirping a set tone pattern to indicate end of life, or the unit just malfunctions and goes into an alarm state when there is no actual smoke or CO condition. However, other factors can cause a malfunction before the detectors reach their scheduled end-of-life:
- Dust from a renovation project – redoing hardwood floors, dust from drywall, etc. are all sources of dust that can cause a malfunction in detector
- Spider webs –spiders, for whatever reason, like to build webs in and around the detectors and the webs can cause a malfunction in the detector
- Other environmental factors – excessive amount of any type of dust, powder, sprays (hairspray, wood finish, etc.) can cause malfunctions in the sensors inside the detectors
If a smoke/CO detector goes into an alarm state and the resident calls 911, BCSFD will be dispatched to investigate. BCSFD will do a sweep of the home using 4-gas meters to ensure there are no hazards, the most common being carbon monoxide. If no hazards are found the team will then identify the source of the alarm and determine why the detector is going into an alarm state. More often than not the source of the alarm is either a dead battery or the entire detector is expired or malfunctioning. Paperwork is filled out and that, typically, would mark the end of the alarm.
However, the new program takes the process one step further. BCSFD apparatus are now equipped with a new “Detector Bag”. Each bag contains:
- 2 – Ten-Year (sealed battery) combination Smoke/CO Detectors (to replace failed detectors)
- New – 9 Volt, AA, AAA batteries (to replace dead batteries)
- Battery Tester
- Misc hardware to install the detectors (Command Adhesive Hooks, Zip Ties, 2-sided tape, etc.)
- Multi-function screwdriver / Awl / Small hammer
- Liability Waiver Forms (signed by homeowner if we replace batteries or detectors)
- Smoke/CO Safety pamphlets
If it is determined that the cause of the alarm activation is a smoke or CO detector malfunction these bags can be used to replace dead batteries, swap a failed detector for a new 10-year CO/Smoke detector or even install a new detector where there are none. “Alarm activations are very scary for residents, especially when carbon monoxide is involved.” explains Chief Speach. Carbon Monoxide is an extremely deadly gas produced from the incomplete combustion of fuels like natural gas and propane. Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless and tasteless gas that is impossible to detect without specialized equipment.
Chief Speach goes on to explain, “Within 48 hours of placing the new bags into service they were used on a call. The peace of mind it gives our residents is immeasurable. Imagine your family being woken up from a sound sleep by your smoke/CO detector going off. Now, you can probably determine if smoke is present in the house rather quickly…but how do you determine if CO is present? If your home has a single CO detector…you have no way to determine if it is a bad detector or maybe a bad furnace. It is the intent of BCSFD to leave homes safer than when we arrived and this program is designed to do just that.”
For more information on how you can help please visit https://www.bcsfd.org/join