Local program distributes smoke detectors

Brenda L. Swecker, developer of the Smoke Detector program, would like to announce the completion of the 14th year of distribution of free fire safety equipment to Randolph County students.

The program, a brainchild of the 22-year veteran firefighter, began after an early morning fire in a home that was not equipped with smoke detectors took the lives of two young children in rural Randolph County. In hopes of avoiding that type of tragedy occurring again, Swecker began seeking grants and distributing free smoke detectors in 2000, when the first distribution was at George Ward Elementary School. That first year the program distributed free smoke detectors to 30 kindergarten students at their end of the year celebrations.

Several expansions have been made to the program since then and the program now includes four elementary schools in Randolph County. This year the program distributed 84 smoke detectors to kindergarten students from George Ward Elementary, Homestead Elementary, Valley Head Elementary and Pickens School.

The program also distributed 80 fire extinguishers to students who completed the fifth grade at the above schools. Since its inception in 2000, the program has distributed a total of 631 smoke detectors and 489 fire extinguishers free of charge to area children.

This year’s distribution was completely funded through a grant from the Snowshoe Foundation. The Snowshoe Foundation has been the sole sponsor for this program for several years.

Even though the Smoke Detector Program operates through the Valley Head Volunteer Fire Department it relies solely on grant monies from outside sources and does not receive any funding from the local fire department. Families are encouraged to perform basic maintenance on their equipment, which includes periodically testing the smoke detector and changing the batteries as recommended, checking the charge status of their fire extinguishers and performing fire escape drills with their children.

Swecker also recommends that recipients please read the directions on the equipment and be familiar with their uses, and if recommended by the manufacturer, purchase additional equipment for other areas of the home. If you have any questions about the program or the equipment, call Swecker at 304-335-4367.