Gail Petersen-Latipow and Lompoc Fire Battalion Chief Mike Brown hold a smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector. Trained volunteers from the Lompoc Firefighters Foundation have started conducting free in-home safety surveys, during which smoke and carbon monoxide detectors will be checked and replaced if needed.
When she heard of the death of her grandniece, Kara, in a house fire last winter, Gail Petersen-Latipow knew it could have been prevented.
Kara, who would have turned 4 years old in January 2013, died Dec. 26 when a space heater placed too close to combustible material ignited the home. The smoke detectors were not working, so the family was never alerted to the presence of smoke. Kara’s mother and three step-siblings also perished in the fire.
“I said, ‘I feel like I have to do something,’” said Petersen-Latipow, member of the Lompoc Firefighters Foundation and wife of Fire Chief Kurt Latipow.
Petersen-Latipow gave the name “Project Kara” to the new initiative from the foundation and the Lompoc Fire Department.
Trained volunteers from the Lompoc Firefighters Foundation have started conducting free in-home safety surveys, during which smoke and carbon monoxide detectors will be checked and replaced if needed.
The foundation will encourage those who request the service to “lock up and look up” — a process at the end of the day when, before bed, people lock up their homes and look up to make sure the smoke detector light is regularly flashing. Additionally, the volunteers will examine portable heaters and point out safe exit points in the case of a house fire.
Although she was already working on the basics of the initiative, Petersen-Latipow said Project Kara took off after National Night Out on Aug. 6. When a foundation member offered to provide the surveys at the event, many people said they wanted it, she said.
“(Project Kara) has been slowly building, and National Night Out gave us a kick start we did not anticipate,” Petersen-Latipow said.
Battalion Chief Mike Brown, the liaison between the Lompoc Firefighters Foundation and the Fire Department, said he was at the foundation’s meeting when Petersen-Latipow presented Project Kara.
“Everyone seems to be getting on board with it,” Brown said. “It is so simple but so many people don’t have (smoke detectors). We are amazed how often we go to people’s homes with a non-working smoke detector.”
He said that when volunteers install smoke detectors, they ensure that they are properly placed. Smoke detectors placed too closely to the kitchen will cause “nuisance alarms,” which is the main reason why people pull out the smoke detector’s battery, Brown said. He said he had already visited about six homes to install new smoke detectors
“Community risk reduction is a big part of the education we are getting out to the public,” Brown said.
To set up an in-home safety survey, contact 733-2421 or email the Lompoc Firefighters Foundation at email@example.com with “fire survey” in the subject line.