Fire prevention educators say pandemic continues to make outreach a challenge

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Posted at 6:54 AM, Sep 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-27 06:56:46-04

If a fire were to break out at your home today, would your smoke alarms work as they're supposed to? How would you respond?

Getting to know the sounds that come from smoke alarms is the theme for this year's Fire Prevention Week from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). The week runs October 3-9. October is also National Fire Prevention Month.

Life Safety Educators with the Virginia Beach Fire Department have a wide variety of smoke and carbon monoxide alarms with which they teach.

Coordinator Jessica Xenakis says alarms need to be checked every month. If they're battery-powered, the battery should be changed every six months. 10-year alarms with lithium ion batteries have an expiration date somewhere on them.

"Those are long life batteries," Xenakis told News 3. "You need to change [them] out as the unit expires, but you still need to check [them] every month."

Alarms running low on battery will 'chirp' every 30-60 seconds, Xenakis says, as opposed to a loud sequence of three beeps meaning an actual smoke detection. That's when a person should leave their house and call 911.

Fire Prevention Week falls just ahead of the colder months, when the NFPA says structure fires typically increase. The number one cause is cooking.

Virginia Beach fire educators say this is typically information they can pass along at schools and senior centers, but outreach has been more difficult that last couple years.

"It’s challenging right now with COVID restrictions, being able to get out into the community and have face-to-face conversations with people," said Kristin Mauer, who works with Xenakis. "Being able to have opportunities like this to speak to the public about fire safety, being able to have online programming available, those are all things that fire departments all over the place are trying to reach out and find a new way.”

In the case of Virginia Beach, it means more frequent visits to libraries and recreation centers.

Click HERE for more information about fire prevention and National Fire Prevention Week.