Four Iowa children have died in house fires this year, all in homes that didn’t have working smoke detectors. State Fire Marshal Ray Reynolds says his office is launching a program that will determine how many homes, for whatever reason, are not equipped with the lifesaving devices.
“We’re going to do surveys in every school during parent-teacher conference,” Reynolds says. “That’s going to reach about 270,000 kids and 361 school districts, so it is a wide reach. We’re going to determine how many kids in Iowa do not have working smoke detectors.”
Reynolds says his office is partnering with the Iowa Department of Education and fire departments across the state, in addition to mounting what he says will be an aggressive public service campaign to promote the installation of smoke detectors.
“We’ve recorded 112 lives saved since March with smoke detectors,” Reynolds says. “Some of those very smoke detector saves are detectors that fire departments have put in. There are many fire departments that already have smoke detector programs where they issue out and install smoke detectors. Those efforts will be ramped up.” He says the surveys in Iowa’s schools should be complete in mid-November and the data will be compiled by the first of the year.
Reynolds could not disclose how the survey information would be used, but hints that some sort of statewide smoke detector distribution program could be an eventual result. “We also have a number of corporate sponsors that are standing by, wanting to know how they can help,” Reynolds says. “The first step for us is, let’s get the data, let’s see how big the problem is and then we can look at a follow-up after that.”
A successful program in the eastern Iowa town of Clinton was launched by an elementary school PTA after a fire killed two students. The PTA raised money to buy smoke detectors and had volunteers install them in the homes of elementary school students. Thanks to the project, more than 700 Clinton homes now have the ten-year tamper-proof detectors and organizers hope to move on to middle school students, high schoolers and the elderly.