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City of Lincoln
Fire & Rescue Department

Smoke Detector Program


Lincoln Fire & Rescue recognized that early warning of a fire can save lives. The Smoke Detector Program was developed in 1984 to assist citizens of Lincoln by providing them with an early warning device in their homes in the event of a fire. In 1982, the State of Nebraska enacted a law requiring that smoke detector protection be installed in new residential construction; residential rental property, renovating residential property, and all owner occupied residential properties at the time of sale. However, this law did not require smoke detector protection for all owner occupied homes such as already existing residential properties. Realizing that there were homes in Lincoln that were unprotected by smoke detector, Lincoln Fire & Rescue. These target groups would be provided a smoke detector, at no cost, to residents, which would include free installation.

In 2005 LF&R recognized the influx of new Americans in the previous 10 years coming to the community form many different parts of the world. The elderly population also continued to grow and there was always a need to serve low income residents. The administration of Lincoln Fire and Rescue identified those three groups as “high Risk” for potential fire hazards. LFR applied for grant money to support a fire safety program to protect citizens from fire related injuries and to protect property throughout the city.

Advertising and Promotion
A radio, television, and newspaper awareness program is utilized to stress the value of installing and maintaining smoke detector protection in the home. This awareness program was designed to reach all sections of the community but in particular, the timing was set to generate interest among the Lincoln population. Specific brochures for Lincoln have been produced and distributed within the Lincoln Action Program, Commission on Aging, and the League of Human Dignity to further the availability of the program. We have also incorporated advertising on the local cable television company's public access channels promoting the give-away programs to the target groups.

The Smoke Detector Program is managed by an on-duty firefighter assigned to a fire company. This person's primary responsibility is fire suppression; however, the firefighter has taken on the added responsibility of coordinating and monitoring the Smoke Detector Program. In the early stages of the program the Department was assisted by the Home Handyman Service, which is Lincoln's elderly and low income home maintenance assistance agency, in installing the smoke detectors. After the program was developed, the Department enacted the lines/staff coalition, which utilizes on-duty personnel and incorporates them within the community to support Lincoln Fire & Rescue in educating the community about preventing fires from occurring and surviving an emergency. This one-on-one contact allows for proper installation of the smoke detectors, places an emphasis on testing the smoke detectors weekly, changing the battery twice a year, and establishing a home escape plan. The use of our personnel not only gives the program credibility and demonstrates professionalism to the community, but the recipients also take great stock in the program realizing that the smoke detectors save lives. Any individual wishing to receive a free smoke detector must first contact fire administration or any fire department representative and leave their name, address, and phone number. When the smoke detector manager receives the application for a free smoke detector, the applicant will then be contacted.

After a phone call to Lincoln Fire & Rescue an information slip and the smoke detector are sent to the nearest engine or truck company for distribution and installation. The fire company will contact the applicant and set up a convenient time to have the smoke detector installed. When the fire apparatus arrives, the best location for the smoke detector is determined and then it is installed. Fire company personnel discuss with the recipient the importance of regular and bi-annual maintenance of the smoke detector. Lincoln Fire & Rescue promotes the importance of testing the smoke detector to ensure it is working properly. They also inform the owner that proper cleaning and battery replacement are vital to ensure early warning in the event of a fire. The recipient then practice vacuuming the unit and picks a significant date to replace the batteries, such as twice a year, when we change our clocks change the batteries. The fire company also stresses the importance of an escape plan with two ways out of their residence. Early warning devices work best if the home escape plan has been implemented and practiced. In 2003 Lincoln Fire and Rescue was awarded a fire prevention and safety grant along with grant funding from the Department of Homeland Security and The U.S. Fire Administration to administer the safety initiative in 2003. Work started on the smoke detector distribution program in 2004. LFR purchased 12 thousand smoke detectors for the project. The department also upgraded its public education efforts with the grant funds.

Lincoln Fire and Rescue has used the smoke distribution program as a community outreach project. The department enlisted the help of many human resource agencies to reach our “at risk” population. That population includes new Americans who have a reluctance to interact with safety and government organizations. LFR partnered with a number of agencies who break the barriers down, allowing LFR to reach the heard to reach.

One of the first and most successful partnerships took place at The Lincoln Action Program during the holiday season of 2004. LAP serves free Thanksgiving dinners, provides winter clothing and personal items to all of its clients. Those clients are low income and new Americans. LFR took part in that program and handed out 25 hundred smoke detectors in two days. Most of the people served had never had a smoke detector in their homes.

Another successful partnership reached elderly in the community. The Lincoln Area on Aging Services has programs for the elderly in 8 Nebraska counties, including Lancaster. LFR created a program with LAA that put thousands of free smoke detectors into the homes of the elderly across the city. Smoke detectors were made available at all the senior centers in Lincoln. LAA also assisted with low cost installation through its Handyman program. Many elderly citizens had not replaced their smoke detectors in years. This program allowed many low income elderly to replace outdated smoke detectors. LFR also attends the annual Aging Festival. Hundreds of smoke detectors were handed out during the 2005 Festival.

LFR has targeted “at risk” neighborhoods based on fire calls to those areas. This information was used to distribute smoke detectors to areas of concern. LFR worked with human resource agencies in the area including: Cedars Youth Services, Clyde Malone Center, The Asian Center, Faces of the Middle East, The Hispanic Center, The Salvation Army, The Center For People in Need and many others to blanket the most “at risk” neighborhoods. These agencies paved the way for LFR to reach low income and new Americans living in these neighborhoods. Not only did LFR provide smoke detectors, the department also provided safety materials which were translated into five different languages.

The Center For People in Need is a human resource agency that serves low income residents of Lincoln. LFR partnered with The Center For People In Need in a unique smoke detector distribution event. More than 75 volunteers canvassed the trailer parks across Lincoln, providing smoke detectors to those living in mobile homes. Those structures have always been a fire safety concern to LFR and this outreach effort provided much needed fire security to those living in the trailer homes. This effort was featured in the Lincoln Journal Star.

LFR also worked with the Community Learning Centers and elementary schools in “at risk” areas of the city. Smoke detector distribution was part of many safety days and back to school events.

Smoke detectors were also given away at a series of fire safety festivals. LFR has been part of The Safe Kids Coalition for many years. These two organizations came together to sponsor fire safety festivals at fire stations in “at risk” areas. These events were very successful with hundreds of citizens attending.

LFR continues its smoke detector program and to stress the importance of fire safety across the community with its public education efforts. LFR has always been committed to fire safety education and will be far into the future.

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