KATY MAGAZINE NEWS
February 7, 2021
By Natalie Cook Clark
A local fire department is offering free Virtual Home Safety Surveys in addition to their in-person home surveys to better serve and educate Katy families. The surveys aim to educate and catch common home fire dangers.
Community Risk Reduction Brings Safety to Virtual Platform
When the pandemic began, the Harris County ESD No. 48 Fire Department in Katy had to suspend most of their community programs. Now, they are launching a free Virtual Home Safety Survey by taking the benefits of the in-person survey and converting it for an online platform, safe and easy for all.
“We had to be creative with our outreach to the community, so we began to record PSA videos with safety messages,” says Jason Tharp, Division Chief of Community Risk Reduction and Public Information Officer for Harris County ESD No. 48 Fire Department. “Who would believe that almost a year later we would still be restricted from doing many of our outreach programs?”
The Home Safety Survey is Free, Open to All
Any Katy family, even those not served by the station, can participate and benefit from the survey. After completing the online survey, participants will get a summary of the risks associated with their survey answers along with videos on how to mitigate hazards in the home.
"It would be great if we could have a firefighter visit every home to do a safety assessment, but we just do not have the resources and it would take far too long,” says Brent Faulkner, CEO Virtual Community Risk Reduction (CRR) Inc. “By doing it virtually, we can assess each home and teach them vital safety information they need in a timely manner."
Fire Department Gets Creative to Share Safety Lessons
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many to get creative. During the pandemic Tharp and his department partnered with Dominos Pizza.
“We followed a delivery driver to a customer’s house in a fire truck and if the homeowner let us in to the check their smoke alarms, the pizza was on us,” says Tharp.
In-Person Surveys Still Being Conducted
“We will still continue to conduct in-person surveys if the homeowner wishes, as well as free smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detector replacement,” explains Tharp. “During those visits CDC guidelines will be followed.”
“During the Home Safety Survey, we will conduct a 45-point survey that covers a variety of items including; fire safety, trip/fall hazards, child safety, fire extinguishers, smoke and CO alarms, emergency planning and more,” explains Tharp.
He says that Katy families reach out to them for a variety of reasons from the elderly who just do not feel comfortable getting on a ladder to others not sure what to do with old paint and or other hazardous waste stored in the garage. Some call because they’ve heard that they replace smoke alarms for free.
“Whatever the reason is, we are thrilled that you invited us out,” says Tharp. “Recommendations identified by the survey are generally easy to correct and doing so could prevent an injury and/or avoid a dangerous incident.”
Tharp stresses that it is not a fire inspection but rather aimed to teach residents about the most common fire and safety hazards found in the home.
"The Virtual CRR Home Safety Assessment is specific to each community,” says Faulkner. “The local fire department identifies the most common safety hazards to that community and uses the program to teach their community how to reduce the risk of those bad things from happening in the home.”
Information is provided from the local fire department. With Harris County ESD No. 48 that includes discussing smoke alarms, Cardon Monoxide alarms, escape routes, electrical issues, and other topics.
“The resident will have tangible information specific to their home on how to reduce the risk of fire and other emergencies in their home,” says Faulkner
“It is the goal of the Community Risk Reduction Team to provide safety education for our residents while building long-term relationships within our community,” says Tharp.
Less Than Half of Homes Surveyed had Working Smoke Alarms
Before the pandemic, the department served an average of 70-80 surveys a year. In 2019 they installed 948 smoke alarms in the Katy community.
In 2018, out of 587 Katy homes, only 48% were found to have properly working smoke alarms.
The most common safety concern found from the surveys is expired smoke alarm, no CO alarms or fire extinguishers in the home.
“Our free smoke alarms, smoke alarm batteries, CO alarms, and fire extinguisher programs are limited to the district for the resources we purchase for those programs,” says Tharp. “However, those items that are donated are shared with neighboring departments if resources are not available. Again, safety for all is our mission.”
Start Your Virtual Survey Now
See what Katy communities they directly serve in the map below. However, their surveys are available to all.
“Your local fire department does far more than just fight fires. Fires are only one of the many risks they look at,” says Faulkner. “Community Risk Reduction looks at the specific risks to a community and identifies ways to reduce those risks from occurring or keeping the consequences to a minimum so the community can get back to normal.”
“By using Virtual CRR and offering another resource for information we hope to continue bringing awareness,” says Tharp. “Smoke alarms are often overlooked, but that oversight can be life threatening.”