Program places smoke alarms in island homes

With smoke alarms installed at 38 residences on Maui and Molokai so far, the Maui Fire Department is continuing to seek applicants for a free program to install smoke alarms in qualifying Maui County homes.

“This was one of the best things I have done to help my community,” said Capt. Paul Haake of the MFD Fire Prevention Bureau after the first smoke alarms were installed this year. “It made me feel good to be a part and help these families.”

The Smoke Alarm Maui program was initiated by the Fire Department in partnership with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, whose members are volunteering to do the installations. The program also is supported by Kaunoa Senior Services, the Maui County Office on Aging, Maui Economic Opportunity and other agencies and businesses.

The Fire Department received a matching grant from the Department of Homeland Security / Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Fire Prevention and Safety grant program.

A total of 530 smoke alarms were purchased, with about 130 of them installed in the 38 homes, Haake said.

He said the alarms are being installed in every bedroom and in hallways leading to the bedrooms.

“You want to be warned of the smoke before it gets to your bedroom,” he said.

At the last installation March 30, 47 smoke alarms were installed in 10 homes. While the smoke alarms were being installed, Fire Department personnel conducted home safety surveys to reduce the risk of fire.

The surveys identify fire risks, such as overloaded electrical outlets, improper use of extension cords and improper storage of combustible materials. Residents are instructed in the proper use of a fire extinguisher and how to create a home escape plan so they know what to do in an emergency.

Applications are still being taken to have the smoke alarms installed through the program, targeting financially challenged families with young children and senior citizens who own homes that don’t have working fire alarms.

Applications are available at Kaunoa Senior Center in Paia, the county Office on Aging in Wailuku and Molokai, Maui Economic Opportunity in Wailuku, the Lahaina Senior Center and all county fire stations, including those on Molokai and Lanai.

Preference is given to applicants who own the home or apartment where the smoke alarms are to be installed; seniors who live alone or with other seniors; seniors who live with family members but can’t afford to provide smoke alarms; families with small children and financial hardship; and people who don’t have working smoke alarms and can’t afford to install them.

Waikapu resident Rufina Peralta, a senior who lives with her daughter and grandchildren, said she was “happy and blessed” to be among the first to have the free smoke alarms installed.

“I feel safe now I have this smoke alarms in my house,” she said. “It is better for my family.”

Fire Inspector Kapono Stupplebeen, director of the program, said smoke alarms will be installed in more than 100 homes by the time this round of the program ends in June.

The dual sensor, photoelectric and ionization battery-powered alarms “are the best of both technologies in detecting smoke from fires,” Stupplebeen said.

“We also provide comprehensive fire safety education by doing a home safety survey, going over fire hazards and what to do about them, making a fire escape plan and even discussing slip-and-fall prevention with seniors,” he said.

More information about the smoke alarm program can be obtained by calling Stupplebeen at 244-9161, ext. 27.

According to a recent report from the National Fire Protection Association, almost two-thirds of home fire deaths resulted from fires in properties without working smoke alarms.