KEY PROGRAM DECISIONS TO MAKE FIRST
One of the most important rules in construction is “measure twice, cut once.” The first step to a successful home visit program is careful and collaborative planning. Assemble the team you will need to execute and sustain the program over time. Include key players from within the fire department, representatives from the neighborhoods and groups at highest risk, other community partners who can assist you, and important stakeholders such as members of the media and key funding partners. Work together on a written action plan that addresses the following questions:
- What is the goal of your home safety visit program?
- In what areas of the community will you focus initially and how will you select them? (Note: This is an opportunity to engage field operations personnel, particularly company officers, in identifying the neighborhoods in their response areas with the most fire/EMS calls.)
- Who will make up the home visit teams, and what roles will they play?
- What community partners will you recruit to help and what roles will they play?
- Will you require residents to sign waiver forms for both the home survey and for the smoke alarm installation?
- What type of smoke alarms will you install? If applicable, what type of carbon monoxide (CO) alarms?
- Will you install alert devices for people who are hard of hearing?
- Will you install enough alarms in each home visited to meet code?
- What safety topics will you cover during the visit?
- Approximately how long will each visit last?
- How will you promote your program?
- What procedures will be used to schedule appointments?
- How will you handle needed follow-up and troubleshooting?
- What training will you provide the home visit teams?
- How will you ensure the safety of your home visit teams (e.g., good identification, reporting to dispatch when your teams arrive and leave the premises, etc.)
- What metrics will you use to evaluate your impact?
Note: In any community-based outreach program that showcases firefighters and partners as champions of public safety, it is important to lead by example. Don’t assume all members of your team, even those within the fire department, have working smoke alarms in their own homes. Encourage everyone on your home visit team to test and replace smoke alarms and batteries and to practice a home fire drill with their own loved ones BEFORE they start encouraging others in the community to do so. It’s a great way to practice and your program representatives will be ready to answer truthfully when someone they visit asks if they have working smoke alarms where they live.
A Note About Alarms
Selecting smoke alarms and alert equipment is a local community choice. In general, WSAFM and Vision 20/20, the U.S. Fire Administration and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security/FEMA, along with many other national fire organizations, recommend use of long-life, tamper-resistant alarms for most home safety visit programs that focus on installation in high-risk homes. This increases the likelihood the homes you visit will remain protected for at least several years. Best practice also dictates that for the best protection dual sensor alarms or a combination of some photoelectric and some ionization alarms should be installed in each home.
Vision 20/20 recommends following the code requirements outlined in NFPA® 72, National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code, and placing enough alarms in each home visited to provide an adequate level of protection. This includes smoke alarms on every level of the home, in each bedroom and outside each sleeping area.