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During fire prevention week, the focus is on smoke detectors

Falcon News Service

October 8, 2015

National Fire Prevention Week is underway this week and the main theme is making sure everyone knows the need for a working smoke detector in every bedroom.

Students in UW-River Falls residence halls already have a smoke detector in every room. However, students who are living off campus are urged by authorities to be more proactive in making sure the devices are installed properly and functioning.

According to an informal online quiz conducted by the National Fire Prevention Association, 46 percent of 36,000 respondents did not know that a smoke detector should be placed in every room.

River Falls Fire Safety Education Officer Pauline Williams said most fires happen during the late night and early morning hours.

“Try and have detectors in every bedroom,” she said, “because it is still proven to be the very first warning device.”

It is not required by state or local law to have a smoke detector in every room, however, Williams still educates people to put one in every bedroom.

“It is still the greatest early warning device for a fire,” she said, “and by having it more visible and more apparent in the residence, it just makes it much more of a chance that you will get out.

In River Falls, Building Inspector and Code Enforcement Officer David Hovel makes sure every building in the city follows municipal code. The code requires “any building occupied for sleeping purposes shall have smoke detectors installed and maintained in accordance with the laws of this state.”

The property landlord is liable for not having detectors in the building, however, tenants must still maintain a smoke detector, in other words checking the battery, running tests and making sure it is still functioning.

“Our ordinances says that they shall be provided,” Hovel said. “(As a tenant) do you want your landlord coming in your apartment once a week, once a month to check your smoke detector? No, you should be able to do that.”

Douglas Rudesill is firefighter for the River Falls Fire Department. He said the main issue in rental housing is disconnecting a smoke detector, or not properly maintaining it. Some tenants, he said, disregard smoke detector maintenance or find the devices annoying.

“They are not going to buy a battery for it,” he said, “or this thing beeps every time we make a pizza.”

When there is no smoke detector in a residence, Hovel suggests tenants contact their landlord and inform them of the problem. If the landlord ignores the problem, then it is time to contact the code enforcement officer and tell him about the problem. The landlord typically will get 30 days to correct the problem before possible being fined by the city.

Tenants can bring up rental property issues in person at River Falls City Hall or over the phone with Hovel, or online at RFcity.org.