Help others with fire safety

Published 12:00 pm Monday, February 8, 2016

Last week in Starkville a smoke alarm saved the lives of seven Mississippi State University students who were living in a rental home.

A fire broke out at 2:30 a.m., and luckily a smoke detector awakened one of the students. Commissioner of Insurance and State Fire Marshal Mike Chaney said that student went door to door to wake up everyone.

Everyone made it out safely.

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That isn’t the case in every situation, though. Chaney and his office investigated 55 fire deaths in 2015, and more than half of the fatalities involved the home not having a working smoke detector.

Chaney said in a news release that his office wants to get the word out in any way possible that smoke detectors are crucial lifesaving tools.

“Pure and simple — having a working smoke alarm in the home cuts your risk of dying in a house fire in half, and if ever there were a more vivid example of this just look at these seven young lives still with us,” he said.

To date, the State Fire Marshal’s Office and local departments have installed 54,280 smoke alarms, 209 bed-shaker devices and 75 strobe smoke alarms in 27,009 homes statewide. Their efforts will increase now that the Red Cross is on board to get more detectors in homes.

Oxford intensified its efforts at fire prevention and response after the 2004 fire at the University of Mississippi’s ATO house that killed three students.

In response to the fire, passage of a 2005 law in the legislature required all sorority and fraternity houses on state property to be equipped with approved fire alarms and smoke detector systems, and for sprinkler systems in all such houses built after the bill’s passage.

As a result of intense efforts at equipping university buildings, apartment complexes and homes in the area, it seems the bulk of Oxford Fire Department’s calls are to hairspray, popcorn or some other type of cooking activating alarms, whether it is at 3 p.m. or 3 a.m. But responding to false alarms is much better than the alternative.

If you are visiting friends, especially someone who is elderly or with children, look up at the ceiling and check and see if they have a smoke detector. If they don’t, they are relatively inexpensive for you to help put one in. Or, the fire department can come do it for free. Not sure about a big, red fire truck pulling up in front of the house? Call the Red Cross and see if they can help. Let’s watch out for one another and keep tragedy at bay.

Stephanie Rebman is editor of The Oxford EAGLE. Contact her at