Free smoke alarm program is good use of tax dollars

State Fire Marshall Mike Cheney talks about the free smoke alarm program at the North Hazlehurst Fire Station on Monday morning.

Monday’s appearance by Mike Cheney, Mississippi’s Fire Marshall and, at the North Fire Station in Hazlehurst was the product of a swift approval process to help further protect citizens of Copiah County.  The Fire Coordinator for Copiah County will now begin to identify those who qualify for the free smoke alarms through information obtained by the chiefs of the various paid and volunteer fire departments.  Much of the registration work was completed at last week’s highly successful Triad Senior Appreciation Luncheon.

Smoke alarms and detectors and the like have become a standard item for structures over the past few years.  They are relatively cheap–available for $12.95 at your local building material or hardware store–and are easily installed.  Many are powered by AA batteries, which need to be changed twice a year, by the way, and require no retrofitting.  Common sense, too, dictates that all homes or other housing should have at least one in every bedroom and one in the kitchen area.  For around $60, the average home can be protected.

Many of the homes in the county are older, built before the technology became available and before awareness campaigns began.  Emergency personnel in the county and the Copiah County Emergency Management office have campaigned to raise awareness of fire safety and protection, especially with children and our elderly who live in these older structures.  Copiah County’s fire-related events in 2009, which included five deaths, are proof enough that many of our residents and structures remain unprotected.  The initial 200 detectors will improve protection and save lives in many of these cases.

This kind of technology is the first defense against tragedies related to fires in the home and a very important tool in preventing deaths caused by smoke inhalation and fire.  The availability of the smoke alarms to low income families, the disabled, senior citizens and families with children under 14 who are truly needy are a good investment of taxpayer funds–and goes along with the government’s role to ‘promote the general welfare’ of its citizens.

And, once again, Copiah County is one of the first in the state to utilize the resource to help its citizens.

Joe B. Coates
[email protected]

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