Philadelphia experiencing a backlog in free smoke alarms

PHILADELPHIA - December 5, 2013

A program in Philadelphia promises to provide needy residents with free ones, but Action News has learned there is a backlog that is preventing people from getting them right away.

Smoke alarms are critical pieces of equipment for every homeowner. But if you need one of the free smoke alarms, be prepared to wait. Not just a week, or even a month. It could take between three to five months.

So what is causing the delay?

Jim Lee received some updated smoke alarms and a lesson in fire safety from Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers.

"You'll hear it start to go off. That means it's good, and that's what we want you to do at least once every two weeks - to test that," explains Commissioner Lloyd Ayers.

Lee lives on the 1900 block of Stanley Street where Martha Frasier died in a blaze on Monday.

Her home had six smoke alarms but none of them were working.

"94-years-old, she shouldn't have died like that, so it's a very sad situation," said Shirley Traveis.

Shirley Travis is getting her alarms checked as part of the Philadelphia Fire Department's Fire Fatality Program.

People who don't have smoke alarms and can't afford them are advised to call 3-1-1 to get free alarms installed.

But you may have to wait.

"You're not getting them right away," said Veronica Henderson. "You're going to have to wait three to four months."

Veronica Henderson says that's what she was told when she called 3-1-1.

"You have your family that you are trying to protect and you have to wait three or four months? Anything can happen in those times," she said.

Commissioner Ayers says there is up to a five month wait, but says this is not unusual.

"Only because we still put them in a prioritized order. So if people have been waiting for a long time - because of the high demand - we have to give them out according to how they come in," said Commissioner Ayers.

The issue is high demand not a shortage in alarms.

The fire department has a current stock of about 1,000 smoke alarms plus a recent donation of $50,000 from the Insurance Society of Philadelphia for more.

"And for $20, you can go and purchase one. So we want all of our citizens who can afford one - and we know you can afford them - to go out and make that purchase," said Commissioner Ayers.

Commissioner Ayers also says keep in mind – there is no better gift than the life-saving one of a smoke detector during this holiday season.

Also - all the money for the free alarms is donated and you can support the continued success of the program by going to a link to the Citizens for Fire Prevention Committee.


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