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Press Release

Press Release  Western Mass Chiefs Send Urgent Message: Smoke & CO Alarms Save Lives

Fire Service Leaders Promote Alarm Installation, Testing, and Maintenance
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  • Department of Fire Services

Media Contact   for Western Mass Chiefs Send Urgent Message: Smoke & CO Alarms Save Lives

Jake Wark, Public Information Officer

Photo of dozens of fire chiefs with the words "Smoke and CO alarms save lives"

EAST LONGMEADOWFire chiefs from across Western Massachusetts gathered this morning to promote the first line of defense against an emergency at home: smoke and carbon monoxide alarms.

“About 30% of last year’s residential fire deaths took place in Western Massachusetts,” said Westfield Fire Chief Patrick Egloff, vice president of the Western Massachusetts Fire Chiefs Association, which represents more than 100 communities across four counties. “Our members serve large urban centers, small rural towns, and everything in between. But no matter where we work, we all agree on one thing – working smoke and CO alarms are vital, life-saving tools.  They belong in every home, apartment, rooming house, and dorm.”

Chief Egloff was joined by dozens of fire chiefs, State Fire Marshal Jon Davine, and Red Cross Disaster Program Manager Mary Nathan. Their joint press conference at the East Longmeadow Fire Department was a proactive measure to spread a message that fire chiefs often have to share after a deadly tragedy. And it was timed as Massachusetts approaches what was a deadly time of year in 2023.

“Last year in Massachusetts, nearly half of all residential fire deaths took place in March and April,” said East Longmeadow Fire Chief Paul Morrissette, who hosted the gathering.

State Fire Marshal Davine said 45 Massachusetts residents died in fires last year.

"Nearly 70% of those deaths took place where we should feel safest – at home," State Fire Marshal Davine said. "Tragically, more than half of those deaths took place in homes without working smoke alarms. And about two-thirds of last year’s fatal fire victims were adults aged 65 or older."

Springfield Fire Commissioner Bernard J. Calvi said his city was hit hard by fire deaths last year, suffering five fatalities – including a house fire that claimed the lives of two older adults in a home with no smoke alarms.

“As a fire chief, there’s nothing more devastating than to think that lives could have been saved if the victims only knew they were in danger,” Commissioner Calvi said. “Every household needs working smoke alarms on every level of the home.”

Easthampton Fire Chief Christopher Norris pointed out that smoke alarms are like any other appliance – they don’t last forever.

“The manufacturing date is printed on the back of the device,” said Chief Norris. “Smoke alarms should be replaced after 10 years. If your alarm was made before February 2014, or if there’s no date at all, it’s time to replace it.”

When choosing a new alarm, select a photoelectric alarm with a hush feature and a sealed, long-life battery: this will reduce the likelihood of it being disabled when someone in the household burns their toast or needs batteries for a household device.

Chicopee Fire Chief Daniel Stamborski urged residents to plan out an escape route for use in an emergency, and keep furniture and clutter away from doors, windows, and stairways.

“Everyone in your family should know where to go and what to do when they hear that alarm go off,” Chief Stamborski said. “Sit down with your family and plan your escape route in case you have to leave quickly. Look for two ways out of the building and two ways out of each room if possible.”

Wilbraham Fire Chief Michael Andrews spoke about another hazard: carbon monoxide, or CO, which he called a “silent, invisible killer” that leads to more than 350 emergency department admissions each year in Massachusetts.

“Be sure you have working CO alarms on every level of your home,” Chief Andrews said. “Test them every month and change the batteries twice a year. Like smoke alarms, they also need to be replaced eventually – usually after five, seven, or 10 years. Check the manufacturer’s instructions or look up the make and model online.”

Mary Nathan, Disaster Program Manager for the Red Cross of Massachusetts, says the Red Cross partners has served thousands of Western Mass families after devastating fires – including many that took place in homes without working smoke alarms.

“Many of these fires could have been prevented or mitigated by working alarms and an escape plan,” Ms. Nathan said.

Chief Morrissette from East Longmeadow closed out the event with a call to action.

“Let’s not wait for the next tragedy to strike,” he said. “Let’s reach everyone who lives, works, and goes to school in Western Mass with this urgent message: smoke and CO alarms save lives.”


Media Contact   for Western Mass Chiefs Send Urgent Message: Smoke & CO Alarms Save Lives

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