GRFD completes 7,000th home fire safety assessment

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A Grand Rapids Fire Department program has helped thousands of people take appropriate fire safety precautions.

The Residential Safety Program completed its 7,000th smoke detector home safety assessment on Wednesday in the Creston neighborhood district.

Since starting the program in 2013, GRFD has installed 43,000 smoke alarms in 7,000 homes, adding an extra layer of protection for people living in the city.

“It’s that early warning sign that gives residents a chance to be able to get out in case of a fire,” Grand Rapids Fire Chief John Lehman said.

The program was started when fire officials across the county wanted to reduce deaths and injuries in residential fires.

Fire departments have been promoting the use of smoke detectors and giving them away for years. Despite that, homes are still being found with improperly installed smoke detectors or none at all.

In three residential fire deaths recorded in Grand Rapids since this time last year, detectors were not properly installed in two of the homes.

The Residential Safety Program uses federal grant dollars to send fire crews out to install detectors in homes and check for other fire hazards.

“Our crews that are answering over 60 calls on a daily basis for emergency assistance are able to fit this schedule into their day,” said Lehman.

The initiative has caught the attention of others, including the State Fire Marshal, which is looking for ways to promote similar programs throughout Michigan.

Although Grand Rapids is taking steps to improve fire safety, the problem is far from solved.

Fire officials estimate that about half of the homes in Grand Rapids only have one smoke detector, if any at all.

The effort is becoming a nationwide fire prevention model.

“We’re taking credit for being the largest installer and hitting the most households and the number of units installed in the nation right now,” Lehman said.

City residents can sign up for a free home safety assessment at 311 or 616.456.3000.