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Johnson City resident becomes 300th life saved by Tennessee smoke alarm installation program

Jonathan Roberts • Updated May 15, 2020 at 11:22 AM

On Jan. 5, the Johnson City Fire Department saved a life — but it wasn’t because of something they did fighting a fire.

It was something they had done in the past.

Several years before, the JCFD installed two smoke alarms in a home as part of the state’s “Get Alarmed, Tennessee!” program, an in-home fire safety education and smoke alarm installation program created to help reduce the number of deaths in residential fires.

According to Johnson City Fire Chief Jim Stables, the residence was home to two people, one of whom left the home after opening a window, thinking it was a cooking-related alarm. The alarm kept blaring, however, and awoke the second occupant, who was able to escape and call 911 after discovering it was a legitimate fire alarm.

“Without that alert, that person may have expired in the fire without ever being notified,” Stables said.

Since 2012, more than 191,000 smoke alarms have been installed in Tennessee homes, with 231,500 alarms having been distributed to fire departments across Tennessee. The Johnson City resident was the 300th person whose life was potentially saved as a result of the program.

Stables said the JCFD has been part of the program since it began, and that incidents like this serve to illustrate the importance of smoke alarms.

“Smoke detectors save lives,” Stables said. “Truthfully, I believe that smoke detectors are the big difference-makers for us.”

Stables called the program a “true community partnership,” and said the early warning a smoke alarm can give a person can be the difference between life and death from smoke inhalation or a fire.

“The good thing about smoke detectors is they give you an early alert to make sure you self-extricate from a building fire and you’re able to survive,” Stables said. “If you wait till my folks get there with their fire truck and they’re rescuing you, it may be too late for you, and that’s the truth of the matter.

“I can’t think of a more important program than this particular one that makes the biggest difference in people's lives.”

In a statement announcing the 300th life-saving alert, Tennessee Fire Marshall and Department of Commerce and Insurance Commissioner Hodgen Mainda said the program is “the perfect synergy of state and local partners fulfilling Governor Lee’s vision for improving Tennessee communities while focusing on public safety.”

“I urge Tennessee residents who are in need of working smoke alarms to contact your local fire department and ask if they participate in “Get Alarmed, Tennessee!” today,” Mainda said.

In the same statement, Assistant Commissioner for Fire Safety Gary Farley called the moment a “milestone” for the program.

“‘Get Alarmed, Tennessee! was created with one goal: To help save the lives of Tennessee residents,” Farley said. “The 300th life-saving alert is a milestone for the ‘Get Alarmed’ program, our Department, and the entire State of Tennessee. By working with our local partners in the Tennessee fire service, this program has helped make Tennessee a national leader among our peers.”

Stables said it was “rewarding” to know his department contributed to saving a life, and said he was “really proud” of the state for implementing the program.

“We’re making a direct impact on people’s lives in a good way,” Stables said. “It’s well-placed resources and it’s well-placed partnerships that result in that.”