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Gallagher Kicks off Fire Prevention Week 2004 with New Education Programs, Emphasis on Smoke Alarms


CONTACT: Nina Banister
(850) 413-2842

TALLAHASSEE-Hurricane Jeanne recently claimed its seventh Florida victim, but not with wind or rain.

In Port St. Lucie, a Waste Management worker was electrocuted when a downed power line set fire to his truck. It was one more reminder of the grim hazards fire poses as Florida observes Fire Prevention Week, Oct. 3-9.

"Every year, fires claim the lives of many Floridians and injure hundreds of others," said Florida's Chief Financial Officer and State Fire Marshal Tom Gallagher. "But there are steps we can take to protect ourselves and reduce our risks of being injured by fire. One of the simplest but most important steps is to install a smoke alarm in your home or business-and make sure it works."

Statistics bear this out. Working smoke alarms were present in fewer than 5 percent of the 58,000 fire incidents reported to the State Fire Marshal's Office in 2003, and 109 Floridians died in those fires.

"It's a simple job, but it can mean the difference between life and death," Gallagher told about 40 senior citizens at a Fire Prevention Week kick-off program this morning at Georgia Belle Apartments, a Tallahassee independent living facility where 10 years ago more than 100 people were injured in an early morning fire. Gallagher told them that fire claims the lives of Florida's elderly more than any other age group.

To combat that sobering trend, the Department of Financial Services and State Fire Marshal's Office have teamed up with the Department of Elder Affairs to launch a new education program targeting the state's seniors. The new educational package will be distributed to fire departments throughout the state, and includes training materials and a DVD with tips and tools to help local firefighters and fire safety educators provide the elderly with information that can save lives.

The State Fire Marshal's Office also continues to place special emphasis on education for children. The department's "Safe House Mouse" program offers tips for kids and suggestions for parents and teachers to share practical advice on how to prevent and escape fire. That program can be found at And, the State Fire Marshal's Office has created fire-safety bookmarks specifically targeting third-graders.

The State Fire Marshal's Office is also promoting fire safety at the state's colleges and universities. This week, fire prevention specialists will be visiting university campuses to draw attention to the special risks students can face when living away from home for the first time. The specialists will be armed with a new campus fire safety video produced by the State Fire Marshal's Office. Another new program geared toward college students is "Candle with Care."

"Floridians have endured a great deal this year," Gallagher said, referring to the hard-hitting hurricane season. "As we come together to recover after these extraordinary events, it's also important that we remember the everyday precautions that can protect us from further tragedy."

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