From Bill Kaempffer, public safety spokesman:
In what is believed to an unprecedented effort to promote fire safety, the Bridgeport Fire Department installed its 40,000th free smoke detector Tuesday on Brooks Street.
The value of the project is well documented.
· Since the program began in 2005, there have been 142 confirmed incidents in which residents’ lives were potentially saved because people were alerted to a fire by a city-installed smoke detector.
· Since the program began, structure fires in the city have been reduced by 37.5 percent.
Josefa Guieterez, of 279 Brooks St., was the beneficiary of the 40,000th free smoke detector. The Mayor and Fire Department presented her with complimentary tickets for the upcoming Ringling Bros. & Barnum and Bailey Circus in Bridgeport. The tickets and goody bags for Guieterez’s grandchildren were donated by Ringling Bros. & Barnum and Bailey.
The Fire Department funds the Safe Asleep program, which costs about $165,000 annually.
“Whenever we formulate our budget and think to ourselves, ‘Can we afford to do this anymore?’ we come back to the same answer,” said Chief Fire Chief Brian Rooney. “We can’t afford not to do this.”
The effort has been dubbed Safe Asleep for a good reason. According to Chief Rooney, half of the fires in America happen between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. when many people are asleep. Without working smoke detectors, some of those people surely would have died in bed.
“It’s impossible to say how many deaths were prevented, but I can say this with certainty. There are people in Bridgeport who are still alive today because they called the fire department and asked us to install free smoke detectors in their homes.
“It only takes two or three breaths of smoke to render you unconscious, so seconds count.”
The program is unusual because the Fire Department, partnered with the Regional Youth Adult Social Action Partnership (RYASAP), will actually go to people’s houses and install free smoke detectors. RYASAP maintains a database of the date and location of every alarm installed.
“Bridgeport is a safe city and every day it is getting safer,” said Mayor Bill Finch.
The Fire Department and RYASAP conduct aggressive marketing campaigns for the Safe Asleep program, including door hangers, wrapped public-transit buses and school visits for fire prevention sessions.
“The key is reaching the children,” Mayor Finch added. “We want them to learn about fire safety in school, go home and ask their parents whether their smoke detectors work. If they don’t, the children even have a phone number to pass along so their parents can have free ones installed.”
Richard Minfield knows better than most. A city firefighter, he was awakened in his Brooks Street apartment by cries for help and the sound of activated spoke detectors. He exited his apartment and smelled smoke. He evacuated his family, and then proceeded to rescue a disoriented woman he located in the hallway. He escaped with the clothes on his back.
“I am my parents’ son. I am my siblings’ brother. I am my grandparents’ grandchild,” he said. “Were it not for smoke detectors, I would not be any of those things today.”
Afterwards, Mayor Finch went to ServPro, a fire and water damage restoration company, where the company owner was donating furniture and toys to one of the displaced families from the Brooks Street fire.
The items were recovered from fires but the original owners, usually because the items were replaced by insurance, didn’t want them. ServPro cleans, disinfects and delivers the items free of charge to other families displaced by fires.
“It is part of giving back,” said owner Joseph Pelli.