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Community Focus
by Tom Kiurski

Beware of counterfeit smoke alarms

By Tom Kiurski

It seems that criminals will stop at nothing to get money. A recent incident out of Atlanta confirms this.

A husband and wife team (both having served prison time) have allegedly taken the time and trouble to make counterfeit smoke alarms, bearing a counterfeit seal of approval from Underwriters Laboratories (UL).

So far, we know of 18,500 of them that went to the Atlanta Fire Department for installation in the homes of their residents as part of a smoke alarm giveaway program in high risk neighborhoods that started in 2006.

According to UL spokespersons, they believe the smoke alarms are missing all of the parts that would make the alarms work properly. This sense of security that residents have with new smoke alarms may be false.

The nightmare this creates is going back over records to find where these alarms have been installed, contacting and informing the families of the situation, purchasing additional smoke alarms and taking down the bad ones and replacing them with good ones.

What fire department has the time and money for this headache?
At this early point in the investigation, we are not sure how many other counterfeit smoke alarms this team has sent out into the communities. Hopefully, that information is forthcoming.

If you have smoke alarms that you give out in your community, you will need to spend a few minutes checking them out first. This may save a lot of work later on if you have these smoke alarms in your department.

The message to the community must still be testing smoke alarms monthly and battery replacement at least annually.

About the author

Tom Kiurski has been in the fire service since 1981. He is the Training Coordinator and Director of Fire Safety Education for Livonia, Mich., Fire & Rescue. He has served as a firefighter/paramedic, engineer and lieutenant prior to his appointment as the training coordinator. He has earned an Associates Degree in Fire Science from Henry Ford Community College in Dearborn, Mich., a Bachelors Degree in Fire and Safety Engineering Technology from the University of Cincinnati and a Masters Degree in Public Administration from Eastern Michigan University. Tom teaches fire service-related courses at local colleges and fire academies. He has presented at the Fire Department Instructors Conference (FDIC) in Indianapolis seven times, as well as numerous state and local conferences. He has written more than 300 articles on fire safety education and training that have appeared in various fire service publications. Contact Tom at Tom.Kiurski@firerescue1.com.


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