| By John Howell Sr.
Batesville firefighters continued their canvas of homes in east Batesville this week, going door-to-door offering new fire alarms or new fire alarm batteries to residents.
Firefighters are in the last year of a three-year program during which they are attempting to offer fire alarms and fire prevention information at every residence in the city.
"If you’ve got a safe community, it builds your community up; that goes back to code enforcement and everything," shift leader James "Cowboy" Snyder said as he drove through the city Wednesday evening.
Snyder and firefighter Travis Inman travel in a fire department vehicle from 6 p.m. until dark, distributing alarms, batteries and advice. Batesville residents who answer a knock announcing their visit will find the two men standing at the door, one holding a large red bag containing their wares.
If the home or apartment already has smoke detectors, the firemen check their placement within the structure and check the batteries. They will relocate existing smoke alarms to an optimum detection site if needed. They will also replace batteries if needed.
If there are no smoke detectors in the structure, or if more are needed, the firemen will install them.
In 2004, after determining that unattended cooking was the single greatest cause of the residential fire alarms, the Batesville Fire Department began their alarm saturation program with grants from State Farm Insurance, Wal-Mart and Energizer Batteries, BFD Fire and Life Safety Officer Rip Copeland said.
The 2004 alarm placement effort targeted west Batesville, where more of the fires had occurred. That spring, firemen visited 1,813 residences, installed 319 new alarms and replaced 192 batteries.
Last year, firemen targeted the middle section of Batesville, visiting 750 residences, installing 60 alarms and replacing 35 batteries.
This year, after they have made stops at every residence in east Batesville, firemen will have covered the entire city offering their fire prevention equipment and expertise. They will also send notices by mail to all those homes they visited in 2004 and 2005, reminding occupants to change their smoke detector batteries and offering to have a firefighter come and change the battery for the resident.
Snyder emphasized that the offer to have a firefighter come and change the battery was not intended only for the elderly or those with disabilities.
"Anybody can call and we’ll come to anybody’s house," he said. "Our main concern is to keep our community safe.
"Alarms give early warning to people and lets us get there with a quicker response time," Snyder continued.
"Smoke alarms are especially valuable when you’re asleep," he added.
A fire department spokesman said this year’s canvas of the targeted area is about one-third complete. People who are not at home when the firefighters visit will find a printed door hanger telling them about the visit and providing a phone number to allow them to schedule a return.
Anyone, whether they are in this year’s targeted area or not, can call the fire department at 563-4703 to schedule a visit to have smoke alarms installed, batteries replaced or learn other home fire prevention information.
And when they finish with this year’s home visits?
"We’ll start over again next year in the area we visited the first year," Snyder said.
See related photo on page A7.