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Wangaratta's Mr Smoke Alarm & the 10-year switch
When the Wangaratta Fire Brigade received a 4.30am callout to a faulty smoke alarm going off, it would have been easy enough to turn off the alarm leave the elderly resident to deal with the task of replacing it.
But Wangaratta Leading Firefighter Robert Skase wasn’t about to let that happen.
He has made sure that basic tools are stowed on the fire truck along with spare detectors and batteries, meaning the brigade can extend a helping hand where needed to residents in the area.
“On that occasion we were able to say to the resident ‘we can’t leave you with that one’ and install a new the smoke alarm right there on the spot,” he said. “We increasingly see detectors that are more than ten years old and the components are starting to fail or become faulty.”
Across a few years now, Robert has applied for various grants to ensure a steady supply of replacement smoke alarms and batteries are available for the community.
He explained that climbing up on a ladder just isn’t possible for many people – which is where the fire brigade can help.
“Usually the people we go out to are elderly but often they are younger people who might be affected by disability and lack that support from family and friends,” said Rob.
Word has spread about the smoke alarm program, which has been running for more than ten years, but was ramped up about three years ago after the brigade noticed just how many out-of-date smoke alarms they were encountering.
“People now know to contact us. There’s one elderly lady who rings up every year and gives us a list of her friends,” he said.
“Many requests come direct from the council through their Home and Community Care program, and at times our members have gone out and approached people with a knock on the door.”
“Brigade members have found some people who are in really dire need of help and others who were actually quite self-sufficient,” said Rob.
Robert, who has previously secured grants through Bendigo Bank, CFA and Rural City of Wangaratta is so passionate about the smoke alarm initiative that he has recently instigated it at Chiltern fire brigade, where he volunteers on top of his full-time career role at Wangaratta.
“I now live in Chiltern and joined the brigade as a volunteer,” he said.
“We’re establishing a smoke alarm kit on the truck with a screw driver, drill bit and other bits and pieces.” The 35-year dual volunteer and career firefighter said in his long experience it was all too easy for people to forget about smoke alarms.
“You wouldn’t expect your TV or other electronic equipment to last for that many years, and smoke alarms are no different – the difficulty is that this is not a task that everyone can take care of themselves which is why we are stepping in to help.”
“Unlike other household appliances which you use all the time, smoke alarms might give no sign or sound whatsoever that it isn’t working until it’s too late.”