The deaths this week of a woman and her four young children in Oklahoma City should prompt homeowners to immediately check the batteries in their smoke detectors.
They are such simple devices and require little to no maintenance — other than replacing the battery every six months or so. And yet all too often we read or hear about people who died in fires where no working smoke detectors were found.
This was the case with Jeanine Bonnet, 28, and her children, ages 3 to 8. They were killed the morning after Christmas in a fire in northwest Oklahoma City. They had been living in the house only a few months. Fire officials said the house hadn’t had working gas service for some time; space heaters were used instead, and one that was too close to a flammable material is what started the blaze.
Smoke detectors are vital because often it is smoke inhalation, and not the flames from a fire, that prove fatal. Would working smoke detectors have saved these five victims? It’s impossible to know for sure — firefighters said the blaze was particularly intense. But the fact the detectors didn’t work certainly stacked the deck against Bonnet and her children.
It’s worth remembering the Oklahoma City Fire Department provides free smoke alarms to city residents who can’t afford them, individuals living in homes with children, the elderly, and people with disabilities. The department will even install the alarms and new batteries for people who need a hand.
For assistance, stop by a local fire station or call (405) 297-3318.