Adam Amacher pulled down the smoke detector that had been hanging in the den over Virginia Garvin’s kitchen door.
“Let me show you,” the firefighter from the South Carolina State Fire Marshal’s Office told the Aiken resident Saturday as she looked at the label on the device. “This smoke alarm was dated 1998, and you want to replace them every 10 years.
“The funny thing about a smoke alarm,” he continued, “is even though you replace the battery and you hear the chirp, unfortunately what that means is the battery works and the speaker does, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that the sensor inside of it that detects smoke is working.”
Amacher and Matthew Barnwell of the Aiken Department of Public Safety inspected the alarms that were in Garvin’s President Drive home and installed four new ones in the bedrooms, hall, and den for free.
Seven teams of firefighters canvassed the Kennedy Colony neighborhood Saturday. Teams installed up to four smoke alarms in every home as part of the Right Alarm. Right Location. Right Action outreach program, which was made possible through a grant from the state fire marshal’s office.
“Aiken is one of five communities that we’re starting this project with,” state Fire Marshal Shane Ray said.
Ten people died in fires in Aiken County in 2013, more than any other county in the state, Ray said.
Last week, firefighters knocked on doors and left door hangers informing residents that they would be back to install the alarms. If a resident wasn’t home Saturday, they were left a door hanger inviting them to call public safety so someone could return to install the alarms.
“We toured the city with a group of state fire marshals and Shane Ray, and just kind of picked this neighborhood as not necessarily a very old neighborhood, but one that’s at least 10 years old,” Aiken Public Safety Capt. Brian Brazier said.
Amacher gave Garvin fire prevention tips and, using a brochure he left with her, explained how to develop an escape plan for her home.
Brazier said it was unlikely there would be enough funding to install smoke detectors in every house in Aiken, but the department is working to raise awareness and asking that residents make sure their detectors are less than 10 years old and working properly.
“Early detection, early warning is what saves lives in a fire situation in a residence, so that’s our goal,” he said.