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Editorial - How to thank a volunteer firefighter

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Next week, October 3-9, is Fire Prevention Week - a good time to let your local volunteer firefighters know how much you appreciate them.

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Just knowing that they're there, 24/7, no matter what the weather or situation, is a comforting thought.

Douglas County is fortunate to have so many dedicated, well-trained volunteer firefighters who keep their communities safe and save thousands of dollars worth of property from going up in smoke every year.

When fire calls are received at the Alexandria Fire Station, it takes less than three minutes for the fire trucks to start rolling to the scene. On average, 25 Alexandria firemen report to the station on each call, leaving their jobs or families to help put out a fire.

Volunteer firefighting crews are also cost efficient. They operate at about one-sixth the cost of a paid fire department.

Residents can show their support to the Alexandria Fire Department by attending its open house on Monday, October 4 from 5 to 7 p.m. Cookies, coffee and juice will be served and firefighters will demonstrate some of the skills they've learned. Tickets have been mailed to area residents; a donation of $20 per household is requested.

Another way to support local firefighters is to do everything you can to stop fires from getting out of control and threatening lives.

That all starts with smoke alarms.

Smoke alarms can cut the risk of dying in a fire in half but there is a catch: They must be installed, maintained and working properly to do so, according to the nonprofit National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). It offers the following tips:

Installation

At least one smoke alarm should be located on every level of the home, including the basement, as well as in every sleeping room and outside each sleeping area.

NFPA strongly recommends either installing combination smoke alarms, or both ionization and photoelectric alarms, in the home. An ionization alarm is typically more responsive to a flaming fire, such as a pan fire. A photoelectric alarm is typically more responsive to a smoldering fire, as might occur where a lighted cigarette is dropped on a sofa. Combination smoke alarms have ionization and photoelectric capabilities.

Whatever type of smoke alarms you choose, they should carry the label of a recognized testing laboratory.

Interconnected smoke alarms offer the best protection; when one sounds, they all do. This is particularly important in larger or multi-story homes, where the sound from distant smoke alarms may be reduced to the point that it may not be loud enough to provide proper warning, especially for sleeping individuals.

A licensed electrician can install either hard-wired multiple-station alarms, or wireless alarms, which manufacturers have more recently begun producing. An electrician can also replace existing hard-wired smoke alarms with wireless interconnection capabilities.

Maintenance and testing

Test smoke alarms at least once a month using the test button, and make sure everyone in your home knows their sound.

If an alarm "chirps," warning the battery is low, replace the battery right away.

Replace all smoke alarms, including alarms that use 10-year batteries and hard-wired alarms, when they're 10 years old (or sooner) if they do not respond properly when tested.

So remember your local firefighters next week, make sure your smoke alarms are working and take heed with National Fire Protection Association's tagline for this year's prevention effort, "Smoke alarms: A sound you can live with!"

Echo Press editorials are the position of the newspaper's editorial board, which includes Jody Hanson, publisher; Al Edenloff, editor; and news reporter, Celeste Beam.

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