HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - Horry County firefighters are educating residents about fire safety and prevention in honor of awareness week. It's a time to raise awareness about fire risks in your own home. Checking your smoke detector and coming up with an escape route are the two things fire fighters will be stressing to you all week.
According to the U.S. Fire Administration, fires kill thousands of people in the US each year. That's why firehouses are taking time this week to remind you to check the batteries in your smoke detector. If you already have one in your home, it's easy enough to pull it apart and hit the test button. If you don't have one, fire crews insist you get one. And you'll see a few different kinds while you're out. There are ionization smoke alarms and photoelectric alarms. According to the National Fire Protection Association, ionization alarms are generally more responsive to flaming fires. While photoelectric alarms are more responsive to smoldering fires. For the best protection, a combo alarm is recommended.
"If your smoke detector is over 10 years old, you really want to replace it," says Horry County Fire Rescue Battalion Chief Brian VanAernem. "After 10 years, the mechanism on the inside -- it's life is over with. And although it may still sound, it doesn't work. So the chances of it working get less and less. So really you need to replace those if they're over 10 years old. Which a lot of people, if they bought their house in the last ten years, they don't think about that."
And there have been a few recalls for the "Kidde" smoke alarms that are hard-wired. So be sure to check if yours are on the national recall list. The Horry County Fire Department provides a free smoke alarm installation program for Horry County residents. They will also help you replace batteries. And all fire departments provide smoke detectors to those who cannot afford them. If you missed any of the fire open houses this past weekend, there are more coming up this Saturday.
Another thing the fire fighters really want to stress is for you to come up with an escape plan on how to exit your home if there's a fire and where everyone should meet. You should be as detailed as possible. Mark a route from every single room, floor and hallway to a safe place outside that is a significant distance from your home. Then sit down with your family and make sure everyone is on the same page.
In addition to awareness week, Horry County fire departments are rolling out new equipment to their different firehouses thanks to new funding they were granted. All of it so far includes gear for firefighters, medical equipment and new tools to help fight wildfires.
"The important thing is with the funding, is that we're able to educate, get better equipment, provide better care to the citizens when they need us," says VanAernem.
From their helmets to their boots, the new turnout gear is designed so firefighters will be better protected from the elements and can move easier. Firefighters are also getting new radios so they can better communicate with each other in a fire.
Some departments are also getting new pumps for their four-wheelers and backpack hoses to help with fighting brush and wildfires. This gear is at station 27 in Allens right now, but there are plans to get more and send it to the Carolina Forest area.
All of the ambulances are now rigged with new medical equipment as well. From tourniquets to cardiac pilots to a device that will help you breathe, the gear will help first responders take better care of you on scene.
"We've had tourniquets roll out, which have become very beneficial during Bike Week," Horry County Fire Rescue Captain Patrick Ellis. "We've had a lot of increase in traumatic injuries that we've been able to prevent patients from having worse injuries than what they had before.
VanAernem told WMBF News that they just finished putting the order in for the new fire trucks last week. They expect to have those delivered and hitting the streets sometime in the spring. And all of this new gear is a part of a 20-year replacement program. So as the gear wears out, funding is also available to replace or fix it.