Cape fire dept. seeks to help most vulnerable

Monday, October 10, 2005

Firefighters and volunteers will install 9,600 smoke detectors and batteries in homes in Cape Girardeau.

On nearly every weekend beginning in October until Thanksgiving the Cape Girardeau Fire Department and volunteers are installing 9,600 smoke detectors and batteries in homes on the south and east sides of Cape Girardeau.

The department received $64,000 from a Fire Prevention and Safety Grant through the Department of Homeland Security in fiscal year 2004. To obtain the competitive grant, the department set goals to educate high-risk residents about home escape plans and to install smoke detectors and batteries.

High-risk residents include children under 14 years old, the elderly above 65 years old, low-income households, college students and firefighters. Statistically, more fires occur on the east side near downtown Cape Girardeau, said chief Rick Ennis. The U.S. Fire Administration reported that 3,200 people die each year in residential fires, Ennis said. The majority of the deaths are people classified within high-risk groups. On-duty firefighters were added as high risk a couple of years ago.

"Firefighters are more likely to take risks in rescuing those people," Ennis said.

Ennis explained that they were going door to door checking for smoke detectors.

On the first weekend in October, firefighters contacted 185 residents as they visited 296 households. Of the residents who were home and welcomed them in, they installed 77 new smoke detectors and changed 78 batteries. Some received multiple detectors since a working smoke detector needs to be on every level of a home.

In general, the targeted areas span from the river to east of Kingshighway and east of Perryville Road, Ennis said. Various mobile home parks will also be visited.

Educational materials about home escape plans are being distributed to residents, churches, service centers and organizations within the targeted areas. Various businesses and organizations are assisting and have donated additional funds.

The department chose to visit homes during October because Fire Prevention Week begins today, Ennis said. On Saturday, a fire truck rally will be held at Capaha Park. Fire engines will be on display, firefighters from various fire departments will compete in games of skill and children can practice home escape plans in a smoke house.

jmetelski@semissourian.com

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