CHAPPAQUA, N.Y. – To educate New Castle residents about fire prevention — and specifically about false alarms — the fire departments of Chappaqua and Millwood visited the Chappaqua Public Library on Monday night for the first segment of “Ask the Chief.”
The departments hope to make such presentations a regular occurrence, Chappaqua First Assistant Chief Russell Maitland said.
“It is a way for us to cover pertinent topics as they change with the season, and it will be a different topic every time we come out,” he said.
On Monday, Maitland focused on false alarms.
“The two departments get 850 calls per year,” said Maitland. “Of those calls, many are false alarms.”
For instance, in 2012, the Chappaqua Fire Department fielded 550 calls, but nearly 250 were false alarms.
Even if you call the fire department to say there’s no fire, once an alarm goes off, the response cannot be canceled, Maitland said.
“We had a call last April where the resident called in to say there was no fire,” he said. “But when we arrived, we located the fire in his garage. Our mandated response is not for a joy-rode. Homeowners cannot be relief on to call off responses."
The fire departments would rather be safe than have the residents be sorry.
"In that particular situation, the damage would have been a lot worse if we didn’t respond,” he said.
Maitland offered the following tips to prevent unnecessary false alarms:
- Cover smoke detectors when construction is under way.
- Call your alarm company on “test” (they’ll call you before notifying the fire departments) for extended periods of time during construction or dust-filled environments.
- Get all alarm systems serviced annually.
- Change your batteries when the clocks change in fall and spring.
- Replace carbon monoxide detectors every five years and smoke detectors every 10 years.
- Do not place smoke detectors in the kitchen or bathroom (steam can be mistaken for smoke) or outside doorways or windows (drafts can bring or neglect smoke).
- Do place smoke detectors at the highest points of a room, in sleeping areas and hallways longer than 30 feet.
- Carbon monoxide detectors, however, should be placed at electrical outlet levels to be closest to your sleeping level, as carbon monoxide accidents happen most when people are sleeping.
If the community could limit false alarms, it would help everyone, Maitland said.
“It costs the town $500 every time we have to make a trip to a residence, whether there is a fire or not,” he said. “It also taxes our manpower and takes us away from someone who really needs us.”