Special to Y’all Politics by Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney

There were 80 fire-related deaths in 2018 in Mississippi. It’s a marked increase over 2017 when there were 56 fire deaths. Sadly, these fires were preventable and, in every one of these cases, a life could have been saved.

With this in mind, the Mississippi State Fire Marshal’s Office (SFMO), in partnership with the Mississippi Firefighters’ Association and Mississippi Fire Chiefs’ Association, has launched a new campaign to prevent fire deaths. The campaign theme is “Turn Your Attention to Fire Prevention” and is being launched with the support of fire services in Alabama and Georgia where similar campaigns are ongoing.

Mississippi Insurance Commissioner and State Fire Marshal Mike Chaney

As part of the new campaign, SFMO will use grant money to purchase 22,000 smoke alarms to be distributed to city and county fire departments and other organizations. SFMO will also provide training to departments and individuals on how to properly install the alarms.

Smoke alarms can save your life, but you must install and maintain them. Once your home or loved one is gone, you can’t turn back time. In more than half of the fire deaths investigated last year, there were no working smoke alarms present. In 12 cases there were smoke alarms but they didn’t work.

The number of fire deaths reported in 2018 is a ten year high. There were many reasons for the fires including one fire which was caused by a child playing with a lighter. Electrical fires top the list, resulting in 21 deaths. Of the 80 deaths last year, 50 of them involved people over the age of 55.

SFMO educators reached over 41,000 people in 2018 and visited more than 300 schools. Under the “Turn Your Attention to Fire Prevention” campaign, a greater emphasis will be placed on reaching adults and senior citizens.

One way the Fire Marshal’s Office will do that is by working with local officials and visiting community groups. Other elements of the campaign include regularly sharing fire safety messages with county and city fire departments and digital billboards displaying safety messages.

If you would like a Fire Marshal Educator to visit your group or school, please call 601-359-3569. You can find more information about Fire Safety Education on the website: https://www.mid.ms.gov/sfm/fire-safety-education.aspx