Fire Prevention Week kicks off

BUFORD -- National Fire Prevention Week kicks off Monday, and in Gwinnett, the entire month of October has been designated to raise awareness about fire safety.

This year's nationwide theme is "Smoke Alarms: A Sound You Can Live With," and the Batteries Plus store at 1935 Buford Mill Drive in Buford is offering free 9-volt batteries per family this week, helping spread the word and save lives.

"Since the 1970s, when smoke alarms first became widely available ... the home fire death rate has been cut in half," manager Rich Ingalls said. "We want to help people understand that the presence of a smoke alarm alone can't save lives -- it has to have batteries that work."

Taking the country-wide theme a step further, Gwinnett County has recognized October as a month-long opportunity to reach out to the community about fire safety.

Gwinnett County firefighters have responded to 1,134 residential fires already in 2010, with an increase expected as cooler temperatures move in, spokesman Capt. Tommy Rutledge said. That screams for a greater need for preparation.

"While not every fire can be prevented, I am a firm believer that fire injuries can be prevented," Rutledge said. "Preventing fire injuries and deaths is only possibly through aggressive public fire and life safety education programs and by following simple fire safety rules."

According to Rutledge and the National Fire Protection Association:

* Smoke alarms should be installed on every level of the home, including the basement, and inside each bedroom.

* Interconnection of smoke alarms -- meaning all alarms sound when one does -- is highly recommended

* Smoke alarm should be tested monthly

* Smoke alarms batteries should be changed twice a year

* All smoke alarms should be replaced when they're 10 years old (or sooner) if they do not respond properly when tested

An official declaration of October as Gwinnett County's Fire Prevention Month will be held by the Board of Commissioners at 2 p.m. Tuesday at the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center.

For more information, contact the Gwinnett Fire Community Risk Reduction-Education Section at 678-518-4850 or by e-mail at fireprograms