TRAVERSE CITY — Residents of a Garfield Township neighborhood are finding a surprise at their front doors: firefighters going house-to-house checking, distributing, and installing smoke detectors.
The past two years Grand Traverse Metro Fire Department officials offered to check and install residential smoke detectors, but residents had to ask for the service. This year department personnel launched a pilot program of neighborhood door-to-door sweeps to reach the more vulnerable segments of the community that may have been missed during previous efforts.
“A lot of times we were going into neighborhoods with $300,000 and $400,000 houses and they wanted free smoke alarms,” said Brian Belcher, Metro Fire’s assistant chief and fire marshal. “We’ll go out and check anybody ... but the intent of the free alarms and the free batteries is for those who don’t have the means, or don’t have the ability, to check or replace them.”
Melanie Martin initially thought the people in blue uniforms headed up her drive were from the gas company. Then she began to wonder why firefighters knocked on her door. Then she met Meredith Hawes, fire and life safety educator for Metro Fire, who explained they were there to check her smoke detectors and would replace or install new detectors, if needed.
Martin’s home off Barlow Street had up-to-date, working smoke detectors, an exception in a neighborhood of mobile and manufactured homes. She still appreciated the visit.
“It’s great for older people that don’t think about it,” Martin said. “But when you live in a mobile home you’re a little more aware of it because mobiles go up fast.”
A fire in the area last year was among the reasons Metro Fire officials targeted the neighborhood, Hawes said. Residents were aware of the fire and were more inviting to firefighters.