Once a month, Atlanta firefighters, community volunteers, business persons, even Atlanta city council members go door to door in the targeted community and ask residents for permission to install new smoke alarms, change batteries, or check previously installed smoke alarms for proper function.
Each year there are approximately 2 million fires occurring in the United States; of these, there is an average of 5,000 fire deaths, 54,000 hospitalizations, and 1.4 million injuries. It is estimated, by NFPA that 75% of these 5,000 fire deaths occur in residential structures.
Now that the case is made, it is easy to understand why the Atlanta community is so excited about the Atlanta Smoke Alarm Program (ASAP). The focus of the program is to go door to door in targeted high-hazard neighborhoods/communities/districts, and install smoke alarms in those residential structures that are found unprotected. These areas are targeted by detailed data collected by the Atlanta Fire Rescue Risk Assessment & Planning unit. Each time a fire occurs in a city of Atlanta address, that address becomes a plot on a geographical map of the city; as a result, there is a strategic method of assessing which areas represent the greatest potential risk of residential fires. The crux of the program is the installation. As Fire Chief Dennis L. Rubin states, "anyone can hand out a smoke alarm, it is the installation that is critical".
Once a month, Atlanta firefighters, community volunteers, business persons, even Atlanta city council members go door to door in the targeted community and ask residents for permission to install new smoke alarms, change batteries, or check previously installed smoke alarms for proper function. These popular events are referred to as ASAP Blitz. On average, 400 interventions occur (firefighters actually knock on the door) netting approximately 100 installs per ASAP Blitz. These ASAP Blitz have become so popular that many times the local media is present along with other community leaders and elected officials.
Atlanta firefighters have really embraced the ASAP Blitz concept. Many have stated that "if it saves one life, then it was worth our efforts". Various fire companies that protect the targeted geographical area come together and the battalion chief determines which fire companies will canvass which street in the district. Streets are color coded on the map of the area to designate each particular fire company's assignment. Community volunteers are divided up between the fire companies and work hand in hand on the installations. The events are managed, similar to an actual incident, with the battalion chief being the incident commander and having a designated radio tactical channel assigned for the event. Once companies complete their assignments, they report in to the incident commander for redeployment or instructions to return to the host fire station. The event culminates with the returning Atlanta firefighters sitting down "breaking bread" with the community volunteers and others whom assisted in the effort. Food is either donated by local restaurants or prepared by members of the Atlanta Fire Rescue Customer Service Committee.
The Atlanta Smoke Alarm Program (ASAP) has really caught fire in the city of Atlanta. Fire Chief Rubin has been able to obtain corporate partners, who have sponsored the entire cost of individual ASAP Blitz.
The cost associated with each ASAP Blitz include: food for firefighters and volunteers, t-shirts for firefighters and volunteers, print cost for flyers, and of course the cost of the new smoke alarms.
As fire service professionals, it is imperative that we understand those high hazards and extreme risk facing the communities that we serve and protect; furthermore, we must develop programs and strategies to ensure that we provide our residents with a fighting chance of survival. It is difficult to measure the effectiveness of programs such as the Atlanta Smoke Alarm Program; but as a very wise, inventor, writer, and firefighter Ben Franklin once stated "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure".