Katherine Birkle says this was a birthday she will never forget. Not only because it was her 100th, but because of the generosity of the two men who stopped by her home to teach her life-saving fire safety tips.
On Mon., Feb. 9, FDNY Lieutenants Tim O’Connor and Gerald Rocco made the trip to Birkle’s home in College Point, Queens, to do a free installation of a new combination smoke and carbon monoxide alarm.
The installation is a part of the FDNY’s Fire Safety Inspection and Alarm Installation Program, made possible thanks to $685,000 awarded to the FDNY Foundation by the FEMA Assistance to Firefighters Fire Prevention and Safety Grant.
“Extensive and aggressive fire safety education efforts have helped us achieve record low rates of fire deaths,” said Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro. “With the help of this important program for seniors, we’re targeting an at-risk population for fire and continuing to decrease the number of preventable tragedies.”
As part of the program, the FDNY identified two Community Boards in Manhattan, Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens, and one on Staten Island for senior outreach.
Birkle is one of hundreds of seniors who have taken part in the program, which targets seniors living in neighborhoods most vulnerable to fire.
Along with the alarm, Lieutenants O’Connor and Rocco brought a bouquet of flowers to celebrate Birkle’s birthday. They sat down with her to look at old photos, before installing the alarm, a gesture Birkle says she will always hold dear.
“I’ve had so many birthdays, I almost forgot this one,” Birkle said. “But the whole visit was nice, such a special treat. It will always be a fond memory.”
Members of the FDNY Foundation-funded Fire Safety Education Team are installing the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in homes of seniors, as well as in the homes of members of the deaf and hard of hearing community and people with disabilities who are homebound.
“65 percent of the homes visited either had no detector present or had a detector present which was not working,” said the Program’s Director, Lieutenant Christopher Hogan. “We have made 546 installations in the five boroughs, which include 942 combo alarms and 13 hard-of-hearing alarms.”
Hogan said much of the program’s success has been thanks to intense outreach by members of the Fire Safety Education Team, who have traveled to local senior centers and canvassed neighborhoods. Hogan estimates the Fire Safety Education Team has done nearly 20 installations every day since the start of the program.
“We take great pride in giving our city’s seniors the knowledge and tools they need to actively stay safe,” said FDNY Foundation Board Chairman Stephen Ruzow. “We are happy to know this important program is helping residents most vulnerable to fire, like Katherine Birkle.”
“We remain so grateful to Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand for securing this grant and for their leadership on this issue,” said FDNY Foundation Executive Director Jean O’Shea. “We appreciate their continued support of the FDNY, the Foundation and our educational and lifesaving programs. “
“It’s a good thing to have a smoke detector in the house,” said Birkle. “I think it’s important for protection, especially for someone like me.”
For more on the Fire Safety Education Unit, click here.
To schedule a free, in-home fire safety review that includes smoke and carbon monoxide alarm installations for senior citizens, email us or call (718) 281-3872.
“It’s a good thing to have a smoke detector in the house. I think it’s important for protection, especially for someone like me.”