Smoke Detectors Aren't Just an Annoying, Beeping Device

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Smoke detectors are not simply a suggestion for your home; they are a necessity for survival. As a result, the fire department in Saltillo, MS is giving them away for free.

The department was recently awarded a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Assistance to Firefighters Grant, and used it to order 2,100 smoke detectors, which they are looking to install in 700 homes. According to Saltillo Fire Chief Mark Nowell, “We have to have them installed by the end of August.”

Combinations of full-time and volunteer firemen will work days, nights, and weekends to install the smoke detectors in 700 houses, 3 for each house, as well as discussing fire safety with the residents. This includes discussing fire escape plans and getting them on a list of people who will be contacted monthly with reminders to test their smoke alarms.

This is a generous gesture by the Saltillo Fire Department, but also one with a bit of a catch: Saltillo residents who take advantage of this must own their own home. This is because Mississippi law requires landlords to have smoke alarms installed in their properties. Unfortunately, this doesn’t guarantee that they will actually be installed, leaving tenants at risk.

The importance of a smoke detector in your home cannot be overstated. It is a basic necessity, and you as a tenant have the power to request one. It’s important not only to ensure that smoke alarms and other forms of fire safety are installed in any tenant’s home, but that they understand their rights as well. Especially for those in low-income housing, to avoid getting taken advantage of.

HUD & State by State Laws

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, according to their written materials about housing quality standards, lists smoke detectors as one of the 13 general performance requirements when inspecting low-income housing. According to HUD, at least one working smoke detector should be installed on each level of the residence, including basements.

In addition, smoke detectors must meet the standards of the National Fire Protection Association, and take into account whether a hearing-impaired person lives in the residence. If they do, an alarm system designed for them must be in place.

Local fire safety codes vary state-by-state, and FEMA has a helpful guide to residential smoke alarm requirements in every state to help you understand what your state requires. In Alabama, for example, you’re required to have a smoke alarm on every floor of a given structure, but there’s no code regarding what type of smoke detector it has to be. The Fire Marshall of Tennessee, meanwhile, recommends installing combinations of smoke alarms, as there are ionization and photoelectric alarms.

Knowing these requirements and recommendations can go a long way in helping you get your landlord to keep your home safe.

Who Can Help You Get a Smoke Alarm?

Presenting these laws to your landlord can help you get you them to install smoke detectors, but unfortunately that’s not always guaranteed. There is some good news, though. If you decide to install your own, you may be able to acquire one for no cost at all.

The Red Cross often gives out and installs smoke alarms to people as part of their Home Fire Campaign, created to combat fire-related injuries and fatalities. The campaign was created in 2014 and has already installed nearly 620,000 smoke detectors nationwide. To learn more about when a given Red Cross branch will be giving away smoke detectors, it is recommend that you find and contact your local chapter.

Many local governments and fire departments are also willing to give out free or reduced-cost smoke detectors to residents who apply for them. Those who live in section 8 housing in states like Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi, among others, should contact their local government offices and fire departments to learn more about the programs that could let them acquire smoke detectors at little to no cost.

One of the most important things to know as a tenant in low-income housing is that you have rights, and you have the ability to take matters into your own hands and provide a safer living space for you and your family. Smoke detectors will go a long way in doing just that.

The lack of a smoke detector can cause a fire to linger in your home longer than usual, adding to the damage and putting you at even greater risk of injury. A burn injury attorney, such as one of the experienced ones at Morgan & Morgan, may be able to help you. Read more about what our burn injury lawyers do for their clients, and if you feel you have a case, fill out our free, no-obligation case evaluation form.

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