Pasco firefighters service smoke detectors

PASCO -- Patsy Bowers stood in her driveway this past Thursday morning waiting for a Pasco fire engine to pull up.

There wasn't an emergency at the 71-year-old Pasco woman's home -- she was waiting for firefighters to change the batteries in her smoke detectors.

"I can change those batteries, but they just don't work," Bowers said. "They have the touch."

As a service to senior citizens, the Pasco Fire Department makes arrangements to help them change the batteries in their smoke detectors.

Residents are encouraged to test their smoke detectors monthly and change the batteries twice a year, said Capt. Dave Hare. Firefighters promote the slogan, "Change your clocks, change your batteries" as a reminder.

Clocks were turned back an hour at 2 a.m. today for the end of daylight saving time.

Already this fall, firefighters have provided 170 new smoke detector batteries to 41 homes, Hare said. They also keep smoke detectors on their rigs and put them up when they come across homes without detectors.

"It's a wonderful service," Bowers said as firefighters Scott Lemburg, Kevin Sugden and David Perkins took care of her smoke detectors.

This year, the Pasco Senior Center helped acquire a $250 donation from the Riverton Retirement & Assisted Living Community for the fire department's battery change program, said Vince Guerrero, senior recreation specialist.

Guerrero said he also works with Lowe's to get the detectors and batteries at the store's cost to stretch the dollars.

"Safety is a big issue," Guerrero said. "We've had seniors attempt to change batteries and fall. I tell them, 'Just call the fire department. They'll handle it.' "

It's not just senior citizens who can ask for help. All it takes is a simple call to the fire department to get a firefighter to check smoke detectors and help replace the batteries. Call 545-3426.

Almost two-thirds of home fire deaths from 2003-06 were in homes where there were no smoke alarms or no working ones, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

No smoke alarms were present in 40 percent of home fire fatalities, while 23 percent of the deaths occurred in homes that had smoke alarms that didn't work.

Missing or disconnected batteries were found to be the cause in 53 percent of fires where the smoke detector was not working. A dead or discharged battery was found in 22 percent of home fires, statistics show.

Bowers, who's been a block watch captain for years in her neighborhood, said she helps make arrangements for other senior citizens to get firefighter visits.

After finishing at Bowers' home, the three firefighters went next door to Betty Hoover's home and found her smoke detectors had been taken down.

Hoover explained they started beeping about three weeks ago -- a sign the battery needs replacing -- and someone took them down for her.

"If they start ringing on you, give us a call," Lemburg said.

It took a matter of minutes for the batteries to be replaced and the smoke detectors to be put back up and tested.

"We're friendly and efficient," Sugden said.