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Panhandle Counties to Get 2,400 Free Smoke Detectors


TALLAHASSEE - Firefighters in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties will receive a special package today - 2,400 smoke detectors that they will be able to install for free in at-risk homes. The delivery is part of Fire Prevention Week, Oct. 6-12, in Florida.

The smoke alarm give-away is being coordinated by the State Fire Marshal's office in partnership with the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH), Home Depot, First Floridian Auto and Home Insurance Company and USAA. The give-away is part of a statewide effort to increase the number of working smoke alarms in Florida homes, said Insurance Commissioner and State Fire Marshal Tom Gallagher.

"At least half of all fire-related deaths can be prevented by a smoke detector," Gallagher said. "Our goal is to equip every Florida home with these life-saving devices."

Gallagher will be on hand to help deliver the detectors along with FLASH Director Leslie Chapman-Henderson.

In 2001, fires killed 159 Floridians, including three firefighters, and injured 617 people. Of the nearly 7,000 fires to which the State Fire Marshal's Office responded, 74 percent of the structures had no smoke detector.

With the needs of poor and rural communities in mind, the State Fire Marshal's office is focusing its efforts during Fire Prevention Week on establishing ongoing public-private partnerships to distribute smoke detectors in Florida communities, beginning this year with the City of Eatonville and Escambia and Santa Rosa counties. The locations were selected based on the number of fire-related deaths and injuries in these areas, economic need and the willingness of the fire departments to install the smoke detectors.

"We hope that the communities will not only benefit from the donations, but also continue to identify ways to bring smoke detectors to low-income homeowners," said FLASH Director Leslie Chapman-Henderson.

Escambia County Fire-Rescue will receive 1,400 of the detectors, and the Milton Fire Department will receive 1,000. Those departments will coordinate with the volunteer fire departments to install the devices in at-risk homes throughout the two counties.

"It will be a door-to-door, house-to-house campaign," said Escambia County Fire Rescue Chief Kenneth Perkins. "With all of us working on it, we can have a positive impact."

Milton Fire Department Chief John E. Reble said he will coordinate with the Santa
Rosa County Firefighters' Association to help identify homes that need smoke detectors.

"There are areas in both counties that are extremely rural, so it sometimes can take a little longer for fire trucks to get there," he said. "Making sure all homes have a working smoke detector so that residents can have a chance to escape will give all firefighters greater peace of mind."

Escambia County residents who need a smoke detector should call 850-595-HERO (4376). The number to call in Santa Rosa County is 850-983-5430.

On the department's web site at are a video news release offering home fire safety tips as well as a link to tips that elementary school educators are encouraged to use in their classrooms.

Fire Prevention Week will culminate on Saturday, Oct. 12, with a memorial to the three Florida firefighters who died last year in the line of duty. The 8:30 a.m. memorial service will be held at the Florida State Fire College in Ocala.