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Oxford Home Fire Survivors Say Smoke Detectors Essential

Story contributed by Malia Carothers and Jacob Duke
Broadcast journalism students

This photo is from a house fire on March 1, 2019. Photo contributed by the Oxford Fire Department.

No law will force you to install a smoke detector in your home in Mississippi, but plenty of people will tell you it’s foolish and more costly not to.

According to the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA), in 2012-2016 fire alarms sounded in only 53% of house fires in the United States. In fire-related deaths, three out of every five deaths occurred where there were no smoke alarms present or the smoke alarms did not work.

Oxford resident John Price says he didn’t need a law to tell him to put smoke detectors in his home.

“If you have loved ones in your home, you want to make sure they’re safe,” Price said. “It’s a common sense thing. You want to have that safety precaution to keep your family safe.” 

According to the NFPA, seven of the top ten states for home fire-related deaths were in the South from 2012-2016. Mississippi had 54 home fire-related deaths during that stretch, with many of those fires occurring in rural areas.

Oxford firefighter Jamie Phillips actually survived a house fire himself as a child.

“Our house caught on fire because we had a toy box in front of a heater that was supposed to be unplugged. We didn’t have smoke detectors, and we didn’t have a way of knowing the house was on fire,” he said.

Yet, he is another person who doesn’t think the state needs a law requiring smoke detectors, but he does encourage people to have them.

“It’s about you protecting your house,” Phillips said. “It’s like the seatbelt law in Mississippi. I think you should have the choice whether or not to have a smoke detector in your house, but if you really care about your life and want to protect your family, then you should have one in your house to watch over you and protect you while you sleep.”

Safety and Savings

Though the legislature won’t force you to install a smoke detector, your insurance company probably will. In general, the farther you live from a fire department, the more you will pay for homeowners insurance.  However, smoke detectors can help you cut those costs.

Co-owner of Pinion Family Insurance Melanee Pinion knows the importance of having a working smoke detector in the household, not only for insurance purposes but also from personal experience.

In 2011, Pinion’s family had a house fire that started in their garage from a faulty heater that turned on in the middle of the night. They lost everything they owned. Without the smoke detector, she doesn’t know if her family would have survived the fire. She now preaches the importance of having one to her customers.

“I can replace what you lose, but I can’t replace a life,” Pinion said. “I strongly believe you should check your smoke detectors as often as possible. For the cost of buying a smoke detector, it’s worth saving a life.”

This graph shows some of the risk factors for home fire-related deaths in Mississippi.

If you do not have a smoke detector in your home and would like to get one, you can go to Oxford Fire Department or any local fire department and ask for one. Some departments will even install the system in your home for you.

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