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November 6, 2018

Halifax Fire Department considers ticketing for homes without smoke detectors

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The numbers would be startling at the best of times, let alone during the month of October, when Fire Prevention Week falls.

In Halifax Fire’s online investigation reports for October, four of the five residential fires carried an extra note: “There were no operating smoke alarms.”

The notation is something new as of last month, says Matt Covey, the division chief of fire prevention.

“We decided, based on our observations, to start noting whether the alarms were working or not,” he said. “The idea (was) that we would show how often we see this thing come up. People might be surprised how often we go to fires and the smoke alarms aren’t working.”

But that doesn’t mean that those were the only instances for October.

“The only time those (reports) get filled out is when a lead investigator gets called to a fire,” Covey said. “I’m sure we have lots of fires that occur where an investigator is not called but it’s the same thing … there are no working smoke alarms.”

He said there have been a couple “reasonably large” fires, including in large apartment buildings that he has gone to recently, “and I just had picture, after picture, after picture, of smoke alarms that aren’t connected.”

He said investigators may eventually break the report down to differentiate between situations where the detectors aren’t working as opposed to not even being present, and if they’re not working, whether the reason was lack of batteries, dead batteries, being disconnected, poorly installed, unconnected from their wiring or expired.

“When you look at all the possible reasons why they’re not working, I think that there is definitely value in saying exactly what the problem is. I think we’ll get there.”

Covey said working smoke alarms aren’t currently tracked in the department’s incident reporting system when lead investigators are not called to a scene, so he didn’t have a full picture of how big the problem is.

Keep reading in The ChronicleHerald


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