1. #1
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    Default Smoke Detector Installation & Liability

    Hello,
    Just wondering if there is a Fire Dept currently installing smoke detectors for the public (if asked) and if there is any liabilty in doing this?

    Have heard conflicting stories.

    Thanks,
    Lance Tryggestad
    La Crosse Fire Dept

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    Default Lawyers Abound

    The only problem with a program like that is that there is always someone out there who would sue if the detector ever fails. Even if it's their fault for not replacing the battery. You can do all the education possible but if they decide not to replace the battery when needed, or pull it out to use somewhere else, they'll still blame you.

    Not that they could win the suit but you have to spend the time and money to defend yourself. I don't know if signed waivers are even worth the paper they're printed on anymore.

    I think it's a good thing you're looking for guidance before deciding to do this. Hopefully you can get some positive feedback.
    Steve Dragon
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    I would like to get a program like this started in my city, but am trying to find out about some programs the state has first. The waiver is not a bad idea. Hhow many others do this?

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    Fire departments across the country have been doing this for years ... with no history of being sued. As long as you pass along the manufactuers limited warranty and liability, you shouldn't have a problem.

    Stay Safe

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    There is a program in place by Radio Shack where they donate large quantities of smoke detectors with one requirement.....it is installed by the Fire Department. I ran our in-house program for a couple of years before I turned it over to another officer.

    The smoke detectors have easy to install instructions for location and mounting. We provide a new battery, and instructions on usage, battery changing, and what to do in case of fire.

    Face it, nothing we do is "liability" proof, however, if we walk into a home with a dozen kids or an elderly person, and it doesn't have a smoke alarm, what does it say about us if we don't offer to fix the situation.

    Imagine the liablilty if a good lawyer finds out that this program is available for little or no cost to your agency, and you refused to participate in it.

    FG
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    I am not sure why we dont install them (but I could guess), we do give them away.
    IACOJ both divisions and PROUD OF IT !
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    Originally posted by firenresq77
    I would like to get a program like this started in my city, but am trying to find out about some programs the state has first. The waiver is not a bad idea. Hhow many others do this?
    Brian, Try getting in touch with someone from Ottawa Hills. I believe they perform this service for the rich folks there.

    We just installed one in the mobile home of a 400 lb. bed-ridden (suprise, suprise) person last week. Went there for an in-service assist when she fell out of bed and found no detector in the place.
    Last edited by WTFD10; 01-11-2004 at 10:04 PM.

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    Default We Have a program

    Originally posted by firenresq77
    I would like to get a program like this started in my city, but am trying to find out about some programs the state has first. The waiver is not a bad idea. Hhow many others do this?
    We Do this in our city and we use a city waiver from the ciy attorney.

    We do it on a request and we perform a fire inspection before we install the detector. Its a good way to get a look at some of the houses in the city and maybe do a little preplanning on some of the older stock. The first year we did this we had installed over 1000 detectors, its 10 years later and we install around 15 per year.
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    Last Jan. We had a total of 7 fire fatalities in two seperate fires and neither houses had smoke detectors, so we have been installing them ever since. Our light duty guys are actually doing it, ill ask tomorrow what they do about liability and things like that.

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    In Arkansas any Fire Dept can get as many smoke detectors as they need from the State Health Dept. There is a questionaire that each homeowner must fill out when they get one. There is also a statement with it saying they will be responsible for the detector and its operation and maintainence.
    The first year we gave them out , we had the folks fill out the forms, Now we just give them out ourselves for our prevention program.
    We are small enough that we go to every house in town and either install one or test and or replace batteries as needed.
    As for liability, Why should we worry about that when this is simply-the Right thing to do!
    The benefits outweigh the risks!!!!
    Asst Chief Tyler Sitzer
    Weiner Vol Fire & Rescue Dept, Weiner, ARK

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    Brian, Try getting in touch with someone from Ottawa Hills. I believe they perform this service for the rich folks there.
    Thanks, Moe. I will do that.


    We do it on a request and we perform a fire inspection before we install the detector.
    Is it one of those things where you only make recommendations to correct and cannot force them to correct them? I believe that's how it is in OH, at least.

    As for liability, Why should we worry about that when this is simply-the Right thing to do! The benefits outweigh the risks!!!!
    I understand this is the right thing to do and the Benefits outweigh the risks. I don't think anyone will argue with you on that. With society being as litigious (sp) as it is, you sometimes have to make sure that someone's not going to try to sue you because you did the right thing. I, personally, don't want someone trying to sue us because we gave them a smoke detector and it was either faulty or they let the batteries die and it never alerted anyone.....

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    I think the biggest point here is that we GIVE them the detector. If it is free then the manufacturers should still be in the liability zone. If we sold them there would be a bigger chance of litigation.
    It is a shame that we have to consider things because we are such a litiguous society.
    I dont know of any precedent established about this, but with lawyers who knows???
    How are some cities /districts getting by with making detectors manditory in every home???
    Tyler

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    You might want to check with your local Wal-Mart about getting the alarms donated to your Department. My local VFD doesn't have a alarm program but I have read of other Departments in the State getting donations of alarms, batteries, etc from Wal-Mart.
    Good Luck,

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    For some reason, I remember a series of fatal fires in a major Texas city a few years back. (Dallas, maybe?) Anyhow, I remember news reports saying that the department sent every engine company out into their districts to do door-to-door checks for smoke detectors.

    Am I dreaming this up? Or does someone know what I'm talking about?

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    In Vermont, in order to install a battery operated smoke detector in a residence that you don't live in, you have to hold a "Type S Journeyman Electrician" license. It's only a 2 or 3 hour class to get it, with a very easy test. Once you have the license, pretty much all it allows you to do is install battery operated smoke detectors. We had to go through it a few years back when USFA had a program to provide detectors for local departments to install. I don't know if the program is still in effect or not.
    TW
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    We have a smoke detector program where we give away donated smoke alarms. Recipients must sign a form stating that they have been instructed how they should be installed and maintained. We will install them if the occupant is unable to.

    I can certainly see the potential liability if you were to install a smoke alarm incorrectly e.g. at floor level.

    Our city's insurance carrier asked all fire departments to stop doing courtesy inspections of homes out of liability concerns. They were politely told to ****** off - inspections and public education are things that fire departments need to do. Never heard any more out of the issue.
    ullrichk
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    Well, in case anyone else was wondering, Radio Shack is no longer doing the donations of smoke detectors. I emailed their corporate offices and they said that they are now focusing on preventing child abuse and such through a neighborhood grant program.

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    The only question Ive have with free detector programs involves a local FD. As an inspector, Im aware that NFPA 101 does not permit new installation of battery only smoke detectors in apartment buildings, yet this local FD not only hands them out but installs them in apartments. I would think that's a huge liability on this FD's part.

    Does anyone else do this? If so, you may want to review the codes that apply in your area.

    Dave

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    The only question Ive have with free detector programs involves a local FD. As an inspector, Im aware that NFPA 101 does not permit new installation of battery only smoke detectors in apartment buildings, yet this local FD not only hands them out but installs them in apartments. I would think that's a huge liability on this FD's part.
    I'm not an inspector, and I'm not sure what NFPA 101 says, so I may be wrong, but I believe that may only apply to new construction or major renovations. I believe as per county building codes here, with any new contruction or major renovation (additions, complete remodeling and such) direct wire smoke detectors are required (I believe with a battery backup). I have a friend who put a huge addition on his house and when the county building inspector came out to do an inspection (I believe it may have been for the electrical) he was told he had to have the direct wire smoke detectors.

    I don't see how they can force people to put in the direct wire ones in an existing structure, just like with sprinkler systems. I would think that existing structures are grandfathered unless they do major renovation.........

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    Brian is correct ...........at least for our county .......any new addition or renovation the dwelling must have 110v with battery back up detectors ..........not sure on the formula on how many per floor etc ......but I bet I will know soon !
    IACOJ both divisions and PROUD OF IT !
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    We install them as a part of our daily inspection program. Our 39 fire companies installed over 3000 of them last year, and we have been doing it for more than seven years with no liability claims against us. Probably because there is a $500 fine for not having one in your home (this includes all residences, private or otherwise) which we do not enforce unless you have a fire in your home and it is determined that you failed to have one. All persons receiving a smoke detector from the fire department must sign a waiver.
    Something I have been wondering for a long time, is why smoke detectors are considered part of fire prevention, after all, they don't do anything to prevent fires....


    fg
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    Fireman george this is only a guess but I would say that smoke detectors help to prevent the loss of life as the result of fires, so that would fall under prevention.

    I asked yesterday at work and we have the person fill out a waiver and our light duty guys install the detectors for them as well.

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    If an apartment building has battery only detectors they are permitted to keep them as long as they are maintained. If they do not have them, or an inspector finds they have not been maintained, they must install/replace with 110v. This goes for other things such as panic hardware on exit doors, automatic door closers and others. The only thing that is grandfathered are sprinkler and standpipe systems systems ( built before 1974). At least thats the way the state (FL) looks at it. Your local codes may not be as strict.

    My department does provide battery detectors to single family homes, and have installed a few, but any thing else must have 110v. This includes duplexes, triplexes, apartments, attatched townhouses and businesses.

    Dave

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    Sample of waiver form as provided by our Provincial Fire Marshal's Office.

    "The (name of fire department here), on consent of the owner/occupant, has provided and/or tested one or more smoke alarms and or batteries according to the manufacturers recommendations. You have agreed to install/or we have installed the smoke alarm in the proper location. The alarm(s) were tested to ensure they were in proper working order before the installer left the premises.

    In consideration for providing the alarm(s) in my home, I, for myself, my heirs, executors, administrators or successors, agree to hold harmless the program participants, the fire department, the municipality and its officers, agents or employees from all damages of any kind, to person or property, resulting from the installation or failure of the smoke alarms and/or their batteries.

    By signing this document, I certify that the smoke alarms were tested in my presence and are in good working order. I have received information fromt he Fire Department regarding proper smoke alarm maintenance, and I agree to maintain the alarms properly by testing them once per month and to replace batteries at least once per year or sooner, if required.

    I acknowledge having read, understood and agreed to the above waiver, release and indemnity."

    There are then areas to date and sign and witness.

    Our Fire Marshals office puts out a package on how to run a smoke alarm program (the provincial one is called "Alarmed for Life") I have a few spare copies floating around if you'd like one. It offers hints on how to advertise, form partnerships, tips on how to approach people, information to distribute etc.

    It is mandatory in Ontario that each department has some type of smoke alarm program. This is legislated. Depending on a departments size and resources it may include anything from handing out pamphlets to going door to door and supplying and installing detectors.

    Good luck and congratulations on your proactive approach.

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    LadyCapn, would it be possible for me to get one of those spare ones, or a copy of it?

    Email me and let me know. Thanks

    nfd151@sbcglobal.net

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