MERIDIAN -- There is one piece of safety equipment in your home that is often neglected.

You may have heard that daylight savings is a good time to check the batteries in your smoke detector, but now more than ever, that is not even enough.

Local fire experts are on a mission to make sure you know how many smoke detectors you need in your house and where to place them.

Meridian Fire Department was recently awarded a FEMA grant to get homes in their town updated with adequate smoke detector protection.

The tool of a smoke detector is a vital part of our fire-safe community, said Meridian Fire Chief Mark Niemeyer.

Niemeyer said when firefighters arrive on the scene of a fire, the first thing they do is listen for smoke detectors. It is a vital part of their firefighting techniques.

Because we get early notification, we get the safety of people exiting the building and we can fight that fire in a controlled and calculated manner, he said.

The smoke detector program is called SAFE, it s a $200,000 gift that supplied the department with over 4,700 smoke detectors to put in homes.

Meridian resident Jennifer Hemphill saw the program work first hand.

How do you explain something in words unless you go through it, said Hemphill.

On April 3rd, in the middle of the night a fire started in her garage and then smoke made its way down the hallway of her home.

Smoke was already enveloped in the whole house, she recalled.

Soon, the smoke set off a living room smoke detector and Hemphill calls it perfect timing.

We ve lived here ten years and our alarms never worked, she said.

One week before fire caused heavy damage to her garage and home, Pam Orr with the Meridian Fire Department s Education and Prevention program gave Hemphill eight new smoke detectors to install in her home.

If a person put up fire alarms after this it could save their life, said Hemphill.

The smoke detectors saved her family s lives.

It did work, and we can't stress that enough, said Chief Neimeyer. That is why we are going to continue this program.

As the Meridian Fire Department continues to educate the public with their SAFE program, KTVB went door to door with firefighters asking residents to check their smoke detectors.

If those residents had out of date smoke detectors, or not enough smoke detectors, the firefighters installed them for free.

Many times, it s as easy as just changing the batteries.

We put stickers in our windows to tell us when the oil change is due yet we don't focus on smoke detectors and that is going to save your life, said Chief Niemeyer.

While out knocking on doors, firefighters stumbled across 75 year old Al Kadel.

Kadel, who lives alone, let the firefighters into his house to inspect his own smoke detector situation.

I put it in when I built this house 30 years ago, Kadel told firefighters.

However, that is exactly the problem; his single smoke detector is too old. Its old enough that it doesn't even have a date on it, said Captain Bongiorno.

Kadel also informed the firefighters that he is also hearing impaired.

I would sleep right through a fire, he told them. But there is a way around that too -- It s called a shake paddle.

This is simply going to go between your mattress and your box spring, Orr explained to Kadel.

When the smoke detectors start to sound off during the event of a fire, they trigger a bedside clock that is connected to the shake paddle. The shake paddle then starts to move under the mattress of the bed, waking the sleeper with a vibration.

Snap it in, pop it in, it's good to go, said firefighter Trevor Palmer as he showed us how easy the installation was.

Fire tore through Hemphill s garage and damaged some of her family s most loved belongings, family pictures, a snowmobile and two motorcycles, but she says she remains grateful.

Old pictures, but none of that matters because they saved our life, she said, referring to the new smoke detectors.

Her message to everyone is to get the smoke detectors in your house checked.

It s important, said Hemphill.

The Meridian Fire Department still has 100 shake paddle left as well as over 3,000 smoke detectors to give out, according to Pam Orr with the Education and Prevention program.

Chief Niemeyer also said this program is a community effort: Meridian Public Safety Academy, Renaissance Students, Lowes, Citizens, Clean-up Companies, Scouting Groups, Church Groups, off duty MFD employees have all helped to get residents up to code.

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