Forrest County is one of five counties in the state that has been selected to participate in the Sound Off program through the state Fire Marshal’s office.
Chip Brown, county fire coordinator, said Mississippi is one of only five states chosen to participate in the program with five of the state’s counties pinpointed. Unfortunately, participation is because the five states and five counties have had the most fire deaths in recent years. In Forrest County’s case, where there have been two deaths, both were minors, according to Brown. And there were no smoke detectors in the homes.
“Because we’ve had that vulnerability, we were chosen,” Brown said.
The Sound Off program includes working with second and third-grade students to teach them about fire safety at an early age.
“The students will also take home a survey to conduct with their parents before returning it back to school,” said Brown. “At that time, we will assess those surveys and perform site visits where fire department personnel will go into homes where fire alarms are needed and install them.”
There are currently about 260 alarms available through this program, which is being geared toward the county’s outlying areas outside of Hattiesburg and Petal.
As part of the grant, money is set aside for incentives such as a pizza party or other fun activity for those students participating. A stipend also allows for the purchase of more handouts and other materials that might need to be sent home. Children will also receive coloring books related to fire safety.
In 2014, the National Center for Fatality Review and Prevention at the Michigan Public Health Institute received an Assistance to Firefighters grant to create and field test Sound Off with the Home Fire Safety Patrol, a fire safety program for young children and their families. The goal of the project was to provide educational messages to local second- and third-grade classes to raise awareness of the importance of working smoke alarms, and through them to install alarms in homes that needed them. A key focus of the program is to teach, for the first time in many cases, the difference between a smoke alarm “chirp” and a “beep” and what action to take in both instances.
Brown said the county fire departments will work closely with the Forrest County school districts with both paid firefighters and volunteers going into the classrooms.
Although elementary-age children are begin targeted, the program is open to anyone in the county. “If you have a need for a smoke detector in your home, contact us by way of the Forrest County Sherriff’s Dept, 601-544-7800 or get in touch with your local coordinator.
Brown said that for those who qualify, carbon monoxide detectors can also be installed.
Even though there were are only about 260 smoke detectors, another program is coming in right behind this one, which will have plenty.