Firefighters install smoke alarms to protect the elderly

Winifred Asing
Winifred Asing
Captain Terry Seelig
Captain Terry Seelig

By Duane Shimogawa - bio | email

PAPAKOLEA (KHNL) - It's estimated that the home fire death rate for people over the age of 65 is nearly twice the national average. The risk nearly triples for those over 75.

The Honolulu Fire Department has joined forces with community partners to help the elderly with this troubling statistic.

Winifred Asing lives alone in her Papakolea three bedroom home. Her smoke alarm is also alone and she's had it since 1980. She hasn't changed the batteries since then.

"Better write that in the Guiness Book of World Records," a Honolulu Fire Department captain said.

But on Wednesday, she welcomed the change. Along with her antique smoke alarm, volunteers put four more around her home.

"It should help, especially kupunas and by that I live alone and I'm medically, I have aches and pains here and there, sometimes I cannot walk at all, so, smoke alarms will help in case there really is a fire," Asing said.

It's all part of the Honolulu Fire Department's smoke alarm installation program.

"We're focusing on the higher risk households first, which are elderly and homes with younger children, so this phase of our program is reaching out to homes that have elderly citizens," Honolulu Fire Department fire captain Terry Seelig said.

Volunteers installed about a hundred smoke alarms in 25 homes in the Papakolea and Kewalo homestead neighborhoods.

"Everything with the economy is expensive now and just to install one fire alarm, I don't know what's the cost for us kupuna, it's really gonna help us, we're on a fixed income," Asing said.

The fire department's smoke alarm program started during fire prevention week last year. They installed about 600 smoke alarms in homes of senior citizens.

"A working smoke alarm is the best thing that a household can have to increase their chances of surviving a house fire," Seelig said.

For Asing, her chances of survival just got a lot better.

"I'm very safe, nobody wants to die in a fire," she said.

Community leaders know just how important it is to keep our kupuna safe.

"We think as a simple thing like a smoke detector, if we can install that for our kupuna, surely what they have given to us, doesn't compare to the price of these smoke detectors," Hawaiian Homestead community leader Richard Soo said.