In 2014, the Federal Emergency Management Agency reported that West Virginia’s fatality rate for home fires was well above the national average, and growing.
“For us, that’s unacceptable,” says Barry Simays, area lead for the 2017 National Jamboree’s fire marshal’s group. So when Simays and his team realized they’d acquired a small profit from selling patches on the SG Trading Post website before the jamboree, they knew they had to put it to good use.
With over 300 combined years of public safety experience on the fire marshal’s team, the volunteers know that every fire-related fatality is preventable if the right resources are available. That’s why they reached out to the Office of the West Virginia State Fire Marshal’s Get Alarmed West Virginia program to see how they could chip in. On Monday morning, Courtney Rosemond, the office’s public information specialist, visited the fire marshal group’s headquarters at the Summit Bechtel Reserve to accept their donation on behalf of the Get Alarmed program’s partner, the Red Cross’ Home Fire Campaign. Rosemond estimates the contribution will provide the funds for smoke alarm installation for twenty-eight families.
Unlike most jamboree contingents, the fire marshal volunteers “don’t get to do a Day of Service.” says Simays. “We’re all public servants. This is our Day of Service.”
When it comes to fire safety, the volunteers believe, preparation is everything. Not only do all homes need to have working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, but families need to know how to get out of their homes safely in the event of an emergency, and that calling 9-1-1 should always be a top priority. Simays recommends the National Fire Protection Association’s E.D.I.T.H. (“Exit Drills In The Home”) planning curriculum.
Monday’s donation will help the State Fire Marshal’s Office get closer to its goal of ensuring all 1.8 million West Virginians are protected by smoke alarms in the home. Considering the preventative power that working smoke alarms hold, the state sees this as a critical mission.
“Even one preventable death is too much,” Rosemond says.
For Scout troops in West Virginia, the State Fire Marshal’s Office is always looking for volunteers. In particular, Scouts can support the Get Alarmed W.V. installation month activities this September.
Simays, who serves as Fire Marshal for the city of Burlington, Vermont, urges families to see smoke alarms as a priority; he says the two minutes of warning they give can be the difference between getting out of the house in time or getting stuck with an unthinkable situation.
“We can replace a house, we can replace personal possessions,” he says, “but we can never replace a human life.”