Grant Will Provide Free Smoke Detectors

Neighborhoods with more calls may qualify for life-saving installations

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The Payson Fire Department will soon be going door-to-door in the southeast section of town to install free smoke and carbon dioxide alarms, thanks to a $32,000 federal grant.

The fire department plans stops at 400 homes in March, offering free fire safety information and the alarms. Fire Captain Vince Palandri said a survey showed that section of town has the most at-risk population for fire, carbon monoxide-related injuries, property loss and even death.

The area produced 15 percent more calls for fire service in the past five years than any other area of town, he said.

These calls resulted in $600,000 in losses.

Starting March 1, three teams, each made up of a firefighter and a volunteer, will knock on doors in five neighborhoods, starting on East Aero, Cedar and Phoenix streets. Teams will offer a home safety assessment and free installation of smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, including strobe smoke alarms for the hearing impaired. Teams will also make sure existing smoke alarms are functioning and that the home’s address is visible from the street. These visits will take place on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Based on records, Palandri estimates upwards of 65 percent of homes visited will need a new smoke detector, 10 percent a visual smoke detector and 95 percent a carbon monoxide alarm.

Carbon monoxide detectors are especially crucial because many Payson homes have wood stoves, fossil fuel or alternative heating devices and attached garages.

The neighborhoods teams plan to visit are made up primarily of aging, pre-1980s homes with low- to moderate-income residents and many senior citizens.

National studies have found low-income people suffer a higher rate of fire-related injuries, deaths and property loss because their homes either have no smoke alarms or inoperable alarms.

“We propose to improve the safety of these identified high-risk areas by reducing the number of fire and carbon monoxide related injuries, deaths and property loss through the installation of 325 smoke alarms, 35 strobe smoke alarms for hearing impaired and 465 carbon monoxide detectors in high-risk neighborhoods,” according to the PFD grant.

While the PFD has an ongoing smoke detector program for the hearing impaired, the “Loaner for Life,” it is driven by requests from the resident or if a deficiency is noted by a firefighter during a call. Alarms are handed out by need and not to targeted audiences. These devices are distributed and do not always include installation.

This program is more systematic. Besides offering smoke detectors, it opens the door to conversation about general fire safety, Palandri said.

Money from the grant is also funding 50 smoke and carbon monoxide alarms for Houston Mesa Fire to install for residents there. PFD is also working with the Tonto Apache Tribe to install detectors there.

The award of the federal grant comes at a time when the PFD is struggling to compensate with declining revenues. From fiscal years 2008 to 2011, the fire department’s budget decreased 9 percent or nearly $240,000.

“Supplies and services had already suffered deep reductions and additional cuts would mean severe negative impacts,” according to the grant application. “The problem has been exacerbated by the lagging economy and recession.”

The current budget of $2.8 million primarily covers personnel costs. Last year, the budget increased $230,000 to cover additional costs at a new third fire station and the department received a $784,600 federal grant in July to hire six new firefighters.

Fire officials say that while the budget has improved slightly, “the situation is still perilous because of the stagnant statewide housing market and the fact that some state-shared revenues are based on data that is collected two years prior, resulting in a two-year delay in increased funding even if the economy improves.”

For more information, contact Palandri at (928) 474-5242 ext 300 or vpalandri@paysonaz.gov.

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