Walker County residents can have battery-powered smoke alarms installed in their homes free of charge as part of an initiative set up last year by the Walker County Fire Department.

In 2017, the fire department installed 21 smoke alarms. Following the rollout of the program, they installed 228 the next year.

As of mid-August 2019, the team had installed 588 this year alone.

The county's emergency services department partnered with the American Red Cross of Northwest Georgia to increase the number of fire alarms installed in the county. The free installations are funded by donations from the Red Cross and insurance partners in the county.

The initiative is part of a statewide effort to reduce preventable fire related deaths. In 2018, there were five fire related fatalities in Walker, and four could be linked to nonoperational fire alarms, said Regina Dorsey, the county's fire and life safety educator.

Statewide, last year there were 119 fire related deaths. This year, there have only been 47, added Dorsey, who leads communication efforts about the initiative in the local community and installs fire alarms throughout the county.

Dorsey said she receives daily calls from different residents seeking help with their outdated alarms. When residents are having fire alarms installed, she also educates them on fire safety.

The best locations for fire alarms are outside groups of bedrooms, in common living spaces, near utility rooms and in the kitchen, she said.

Dorsey helps residents locate multiple exits from the house and instructs them to keep pathways throughout the home clear.

For second-floor bedrooms, she suggests keeping a ladder outside windows and potentially leaving a step stool inside to make getting up through the window easier.

If stuck in a room without an option to escape, Dorsey said the best option is to stay calm, keep the door closed and call 911.

To schedule an appointment for the fire department to replace or check a home fire alarm system, county residents may call 706-539-1255, ext. 1.

Georgia homes built after 1993 are legally required to have fire alarms that are hardwired rather than battery operated, said Dorsey, and the county cannot replace these. Battery operated alarms are still safe, however, hardwired are preferred to limit the ability to remove the power source, she explained.

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