Tonawanda News — Two city employees who are no strangers to the potential for catastrophe met this week at the North Tonawanda Fire Department, where a policy of giving out smoke detectors to those in need received a boost.
With 3,200 calls coming in last year, mostly for medical-related issues, Assistant Chief Tom Croop said his department often gets to see the intimate details of people’s homes, some of whom are drastically ill-prepared in the event of a fire.
And while each year Croop has been able to obtain several dozen smoke detectors from a non-profit group, his supply recently began to dwindle.
Building Inspector Cosimo Capozzi, who often works with Croop in his dual role as a fire marshall, said he knew of the shortage and decided to begin a collection in his City Hall office, leaving a “pretzel jug” on his desk for donations.
“We see the nasty side of things that happen,” he said. “We want to prevent that and I know they save lives. Our job is safety first.”
Over the course of several months and with a few corporate donations, he collected $700, enabling him to purchase 100 mid-range smoke alarms that he handed over to Croop this week.
But while the small gesture won’t solve every safety issue, it does underscore the need to remind residents of the device’s importance, both men said.
“It’s mixed,” said Croop, whose cell phone cover has a sticker on it reading: “Smoke Alarms Save Lives. “Most people have smoke alarms but there are plenty who don’t have any. You wouldn’t think that could still take place in 2013. We’re trying to change that culture.”
Data released this week by the National Fire Protection Association showed that in 2012 a fire occurred nationally every 23 seconds, with 1,375,500 fires responded to by public fire departments, 2,855 civilian deaths and 16,500 injuries as result of fire.
And while not common in North Tonawanda, two individuals died on Third Avenue this year in a home reported to be without properly working smoke alarms. Residential fires account for 76 percent of overall fires and 83 percent of fire-related deaths, according to the NFPA.
Croop said now that his supply has been reinforced, he will direct city firefighters to carry more smoke alarms with them and hand them out more frequently to residents who either can’t afford them or are physically unable to install them. Residents can also call the fire department to request smoke alarms.
“Have a plan,” Croop said. “Don’t make the first time you think about fire safety when you’re having a fire.”
Capozzi said he will continue his collections efforts and try to purchase more smoke alarms later this year, something he feels is important to keep in steady supply.
“I’ve seen when smoke alarms have not been utilized,” he said. “It’s tragic.”
Contact reporter Michael Regan at 693-1000, ext. 4115.CONTACT • To request smoke alarms call 693-2201.