State struggles up from bottom of fire safety list

Published 2:04 pm Thursday, June 16, 2011

Eighty people died in fires in Mississippi last year. Only in two of those incidents were there smoke detectors.

In one of those cases, it is unknown whether the detector was working.

Perhaps the battery was dead or removed just enough to stop the squealing of the alarm at  burnt toast.

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Or maybe the detector worked just fine and the inhabitants of the home still didn’t have time to escape.

It’s unknown.

What is known is that fire detectors can and do save lives.

Just seven years ago, Mississippi was ranked No. 50 in fire safety. It had the most fire deaths of any state in the union.

After years of pushing for stricter fire prevention and smoke detectors, Mississippi has climbed to a No. 40 ranking.

State Insurance Commissioner and Fire Marshal Mike Chaney shared these jarring facts at a Columbus Rotary Club meeting recently.

Nationally, more than 2,500 people die in home fires each year, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

No. 40 isn’t good enough.

Poverty plays a factor in whether people invest in smoke detectors and if they have working batteries.

In a high-poverty state like ours, batteries for a smoke detector aren’t a top priority when families are trying to figure out how to keep the lights on and put food on the table.

But it should be.

Chances of dying in a home fire increase exponentially when there’s not a smoke detector there.

Don’t fight the odds. …

The state fire marshal’s office, through local fire departments, offers programs to install fire detectors for older adult homeowners and those with children 14 and under. …

An old adage goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Saving a life is priceless.