KubotaoftheOzarks

Project RED Zone aims at reducing Springfield fire fatalities

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The time to fight a fire is before it starts. Data from 2016 shows 42 percent of all Springfield homes in which a fire occurred in 2016 had no working smoke alarms and two-thirds of all Springfield homes don’t have enough smoke alarms to adequately protect the occupants.

Springfield’s fire death rate is among the highest in the United States, nearly triple the national average of 10 deaths per one million people.

In 2016, Springfield experienced five fire deaths. This is the equivalent of nearly 30 fire deaths per one million people.

The Springfield Fire Department (SFD) hopes to reduce fires and fire deaths with the launch of a new campaign called Project RED Zone, which is part of SFD’s Community Risk Reduction (CRR) program. Project RED Zone – a reference to the red areas on the Springfield Fire Department’s map of fire incidents  – stands for Reduce, Educate, Deliver.

New data shows 42 percent of all Springfield homes in which a fire occurred in 2016 had no working smoke alarms and two-thirds of all Springfield homes don’t have enough smoke alarms to adequately protect the occupants. SFD recommends smoke alarms be installed on every level of the home, outside each sleeping area and in every bedroom.

“Community Risk Reduction is about prioritizing our risks as a community and working together to invest the time and resources necessary to reduce them,” said Interim Fire Chief David Pennington.

The multifaceted campaign, which is part of the Zone Blitz, will begin April 8 with a project to ensure every home in Zone 1 – the area of the City with the highest fire risk – has working smoke alarms.

“We are beginning this new campaign with the expansion of our free smoke alarm program because we have identified a lack of adequate warning in a fire as one of the biggest problems we face as a community,” said Pennington.

Starting April 8 and continuing every Saturday for as long as it takes to complete the project, fire crews will canvass Zone 1 knocking on doors, offering to test smoke alarms and installing new alarms or provide batteries if needed at no charge.

The department will begin its campaign in the West Central neighborhood, an area which has an extremely high fire risk. In 2016, there were 55 fires in West Central – the highest of any neighborhood in Springfield.

The department expects the project to take around one year to complete and is funded with the help of grant dollars through FEMA’s Fire Prevention and Safety Grant and general revenue SFD funds designated for public education. If successful and if funding is available for additional alarms and batteries, the department hopes to expand the program to other parts of the city. As always, the Fire Department offers free smoke alarms and batteries to anyone in need. To obtain a free alarm, call 874-2300.

George Freeman is a veteran journalist and photographer. An award-winning writer, editor and columnist in Springfield, Mo., with more than 50 years experience. His preference is for positive and uplifting stories about people, places, traditions and trends that make the Ozarks one of the most livable regions anywhere. A member of the Garden Writers Association of America, he is a past-president of the Society of Professional Journalists of Southwest Missouri, the Kansas and Ohio AP societies; a board member of Friends of the Garden and a member of the Rotary Club of Springfield. In 1976, he traveled to India as a member of a Rotary Foundation Group Study Exchange Team.

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