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Fire Department hopes to start home safety visits

April 22, 2014

Sometimes when the Wauwatosa Fire Department shows up at a home in an emergency, the cause is painfully obvious. There may be a clear fire hazard, and often there's a lack of working smoke detectors.

Jim Case, the department's assistant chief, said he's hoping to cut down on these incidents by providing home visits for residents who request them, or residents who have already had problems. If invited in, firefighters would walk through the home looking for hazards and providing solutions.

The visits, which Case hopes can begin sometime this year if the department finds the funding, would add to a list of several other programs the department already provides to encourage safety and prevent the need to call 911.

About three years ago, noticing that falls accounted for a large portion of ambulance calls from seniors, the department started giving safety presentations at senior-living facilities. Then the department started participating in Project Reassurance, which allows its staff to enter seniors' homes if they are unresponsive to calls.

"We try to look at our trends of responses and ambulance calls, and when we ID where those problems are, that's where we want to focus," Case said.

About a year ago, the department started helping residents obtain or fix their smoke detectors, even providing battery replacements.

"Smoke detectors are an ongoing problem," Case said. "There's quite a few times where if there were working smoke detectors, it could get people out earlier."

Case said it's not clear yet what the costs of the home safety visits would be, or where the funding would come from. But he hopes the department can collaborate with people in other fields, like nurses, to provide more wholistic help in regards to public health.

"We can't be there 24-7, but we want to make sure residents are always as safe as possible," he said.

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