If you asked him how many smoke detectors he installs per week, Marshfield firefighter Steven Hamm said it varies, depending on the week.
"One week, we'll have two or three houses that we'll install smoke detectors in and then we’ll go a month or two without installing any," said Hamm. "I actually have a house I installed three for this last week."
Hamm designates a time in his schedule to issue and install smoke detectors into homes. With smoke detector replacement, he said it depends on a case by case situation, but he, along with the other fire personnel, will make every effort to come out and change them.
"We mainly do it for senior citizens in the area," said Hamm. "We don't do a lot of apartment complexes and rental houses. That's actually the responsibility of the landlord. That's not saying we won’t do it, though. What we care about is getting smoke detectors in their house. We hear about some personal stories from people who can't afford smoke detectors, which is why we’ll try to provide them."
Smoke detectors are issued by living areas in the house, or an area where a bedroom is located.
"If you have three bedrooms on one side of the house and then another bedroom on the other side of the house, that's considered two living areas, so we’ll issue two smoke detectors," said Hamm.
The fire protection district doesn't install a wire-styled smoke detector, only a free-standing unit that runs off of a battery. That’s because it's a liability for the fire district because they have to be hard-wired into the home, according to Hamm.
"Smoke detectors are very easy to install," said Hamm. "The cover opens up on them. You screw them to the wall and close the cover. It's as easy as hanging a picture on the wall."
According to Marshfield firefighter Kit Gaynor, there are several grants out there to obtain smoke detectors. However, some of them only apply for children.
"We get a lot of calls that a smoke detector went bad, especially from our elderly residents," said Gaynor. "Some of these grant programs only do the smoke detectors for kids. Instead of doing that, our board decided to broaden this, so they buy all of our smoke detectors."
Sometimes, Marshfield fire personnel will go out of their way to purchase batteries and change them in the smoke detectors, according to Hamm.
"We've had firefighters that have been known to buy batteries for people and just go and change them on their own time, not on fire department time," said Hamm. "Ultimately, what we're all looking for is every house to be protected with smoke detectors."
If the smoke detector's malfunctioning, it will make a chirp noise when the battery is dead, according to Hamm.
"In a lot of the new houses, they are all wired smoke detectors, so they are run off the electrical panel and electrical system of the house, but they have battery backups," said Hamm. "They will chirp when their battery is low, even though their primary source is electrical."
Fire personnel use daylight savings time as a way to remember when to change the batteries on smoke detectors. Hamm said, "If you're changing your time, then why not change your battery, as well?"
Smoke detectors have a 10-year life span and any smoke detectors over that life span should be replaced. Hamm recommends replacing smoke detectors when they start getting close to 10 years.
"Say, about seven to eight years, you should go ahead and start getting it on your mind about replacing smoke detectors at that time," said Hamm.
As for purchasing smoke detectors, Hamm said, "There's such a huge range in cost. You can buy smoke detectors that are $50 a piece or $150 a piece. They’re coming out with new smoke detectors that are voice recorded. When you install them, you insert the messages that they play. A lot of them are used for special needs kids to help them wake up and get outside, in case of an emergency. They hear their parents' voice, instead of the loud beeping noise. That might be a better choice for those kids."