Township leads in fire safety program
By By BEN RAYMOND LODE / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- Fire fighter Bob Ruff with the Niles Township Fire Department has a stockpile of smoke detectors to give away -- free of charge.
Giving away the smoke detectors is part of the township's Public Safety Education Program, in which firefighter Ruff is taking a leading role.
The goal of the program, which is not new but being expanded in fire departments all across Berrien County, is to provide the most effective means of fire safety and prevention at no cost for residents.
That includes installing smoke detectors and providing an overall fire safety evaluation of homes, helping to create fire escape plans and conducting pre-incident surveys of homes.
The program also includes teaching fire safety to those who don't receive fire safety education through school, such as home schooled children, elderly and mentally challenged people.
Ruff said the smoke detectors, as well as the services mentioned in the Public Safety Education Program is free for everyone, regardless of socio-economic status.
He realized the importance of smoke detectors after collecting data on how many people have lost their lives in structural fires where the structures didn't have smoke detectors.
He said statistics indicate 50 percent of all structural fires happens in a building with a smoke detector.
Ninety-eight percent of deaths caused by fires, however, happens in structures without smoke detectors.
The City of Niles Fire Department also takes part in the fire safety education program.
Chief Larry Lamb said, like the township, the city fire department has been involved with the program on a smaller scale before.
He is glad, however, to see that the public safety education program is being stepped up and advertised to the public.
Although installing smoke detectors is an important part of the program, Lamb also said it's important to make the public aware that the fire departments involved with the program are available to inspect homes.
Ruff, who plans on keeping the availability of the program on people's minds in the future, said they will give out smoke detectors as long as there are any left.
When the township fire department runs out, however, Ruff said donations will be needed to purchase more smoke detectors.
In total, the Public Safety Education Program is distributing 1,835 free smoke detectors in Berrien, Cass and Van Buren counties.
The program is being funded by over $30,000 in grants and discounts from Lowe's, United Way of Southwestern Michigan and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.
Here in Niles the smoke detectors are distributed through Niles-Buchanan Senior Center, Niles, (269) 683-9380.
For more information about the program, Bob Ruff at the Niles Township Fire Station 2, 683-3311.
To sign up for the program, call the following numbers based on address: