Bayou Cane uses grant money for fire safety

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Every 156 minutes someone in the U.S. dies from a fire.

But thanks to a grant to the Bayou Cane Fire District from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the fire department established a smoke detector giveaway program to help prevent fire related fatalities, just in time for fire prevention month.

“It’s a common practice for a lot of fire departments to give out smoke detectors, but to reach a large quantity of people costs a lot of money,” Assistant Fire Chief Kenny Hill said.

According to a press release from the Bayou Cane Fire District, the total project cost is $151,015, for both the fire detectors and training materials for CPR classes to the public. The federal share of the cost is $135,914, or 90 percent. Hill added 14 percent of the total cost went to CPR funding, and 86 percent went to the smoke detectors.

“We purchased 5,000 smoke detectors that are dual censored which will help detect a fire that’s fast burning or a fire that’s just smoldering,” Bayou Cane Arson Investigator Ken Himel said. “There are lithium batteries in them that last 10 years, so you don’t have to replace them every six months like with your standard 9-volt battery.”

Himel said one smoke detector is allowed per household, while supplies last.

“All you have to do is come in, even from outside the district, we won’t turn anyone away,” he said. “The only thing we can’t offer is if someone has physical limitations and needs assistance installing the smoke detector, if they’re outside our jurisdiction we’ll tell them to contact their local fire department. If they’re inside the district we’ll make arrangements to try to help them out.”

The only catch – residents must give their name, address and the location where they plan on installing the detector for the fire department’s records.

“The thing about the smoke detector is that it’s the cheapest insurance policy you can buy,” Himel said. “I spent four years as an arson investigator for the Fire Marshall, and every fatality we had either didn’t have a smoke detector or it had one that didn’t work.”

Out of 96 million homes in America, 11 million have no smoke detectors and 16 million have detectors that don’t work, according to the press release.

Himel said the department plans on reaching residential homes that are older, and were not required to have smoke detectors installed during construction. In addition to the detectors, the department also purchased 1,500 fire prevention education pamphlets to give to the citizens of Bayou Cane.

“It’s material that talks about fire exit drills in the home, cooking safety and how to use fire extinguishers,” Himel said.

Hill said the CPR classes that are being implemented help save lives, too. The FEMA grant will be used to purchase all course textbooks, training videos, student workbooks, CPR mannequins and supplies

“It’s something that definitely saves lives,” he said. “We have the Phoenix Award Program that gives awards to our fireman, but also the public who actually save someone’s life in administering of CPR, where without their actions that person would have died.”

On average, three to four people a year have been saved by the use of CPR or an automatic external defibrillator (AED), according to Hill.

“Our goal is to teach 500 people within our first year, and we’re almost to about 100 people now without even having any advertisement of the classes,” Hill said.

Hill noted classes will be held every first and third Saturday of the month beginning at 8 a.m. The classes will last approximately four to six hours, are limited to 12 people per class and would cover both adult and child CPR training. Hill said the department can accommodate larger classes, but they would need to be scheduled in advance.

All students that successfully complete the course will receive an American Heart Association CPR and AED Certification Card.

For more information, residents are encouraged to call the Administrative Office at (985) 580-7230.

Assistant Fire Chief Kenny Hill and Arson Investigator Ken Himel of the Bayou Cane Police Department display educational materials the department was able to purchase thanks to a FEMA Grant. JENNA FARMER