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Igniting Awareness

October is National Fire Prevention Month — an unlikely topic for this blog except for two at-first, seemingly unrelated occurrences.

The first produced national headlines and commentary: an armed intruder able to get into the White House without being detected and make his way toward the President’s private quarters before being forcibly brought down. How was that possible? The alarm system, intended to alert the Secret Service to the presence of any intruders, had been muted (some reports said turned off) because it made an annoying sound.

Story seem familiar? What could improbably happen in the “The People’s House” could and does all too easily happen in other people’s houses, as attested to by the second occurrence, an email from Judy Kashka. You may recall that she is an oldest daughter who wrote an earlier blog for this column. Like the first, she shares her following personal story in hopes that doing so will spare others the unnecessary heartache her family experienced.

My husband, Leroy, and I were away celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary three years ago when the phone rang around midnight. Our daughter Terri told us her daughter Taylor had spent the night with her best friend, as she had done countless times before. An electrical fire had broken out in the home. Taylor’s friend woke up to the smoke, could not get Taylor awake, went down to find her Mother, and they could not get back upstairs to get Taylor. She was eight years old.

We learned that the family of Taylor’s friend had taken their smoke detectors down to replace them, but had not gotten around to installing the new ones.

Following the tragedy, the fire department asked Terri to tell Taylor’s story every chance she got because when the fire chief asks people to check their smoke detectors, he often gets a “yea, right” response. When Terri tells Taylor’s story, she gets an “OMG, I will go home and check them immediately.” The Fire Chief tells our daughter that she will never have any idea how many tragedies she has prevented by telling Taylor’s story.

Numerous television interviews and newspaper articles both at the time of Taylor’s death and on the anniversaries have told her story. Terri also spoke at a press conference at the Kansas State Capital with the State Fire Marshall and the Governor. Most people are unaware that many local Fire Departments will come inspect your home for placement of smoke detectors and will even provide and install them at no cost if you cannot afford one.

Terri has since created an ongoing campaign, appropriately named “Taylor Your Home 4 Safety.” A logo was designed with a slogan and a ladybug (Taylor’s nickname was “Bug”) sitting on a smoke detector; a Facebook page with the campaign name was created; and wristbands with the campaign message have been made available through the Facebook page via an IM to the administrator — all to help spread the word about the importance of smoke detectors.

I would not wish what has happened to our family on anyone! But Leroy and I are so proud of our daughter for having had the courage to turn a personal tragedy into something that is helping other families.

As adult oldest daughters, we often continue to be looked to for our responses to various situations and challenges. Judy’s story provides an opportunity for each of us to remind family and friends to check/replace our smoke alarm batteries. The end of Daylight Savings Time is regularly suggested as a good time to do that checking. This year that day is November 2 – a good day to Taylor Your Home 4 Safety.

Categories: General
  1. Nora Richard
    October 17, 2014 at 1:00 pm

    I am so glad to have read this. I, like so many others, think about checking my one battery operated smoke detector (the others are electrical) and then go on about other things. Now I will check it today – I will forget by Nov. 2.

  2. Leroy and Judy Kashka
    October 17, 2014 at 1:02 pm

    This is awesome! Terri was so impressed. A link has been posted on Taylor Your Home 4 Safety facebook page. Thank you so much for doing this!



  3. Jennifer Lieb
    October 26, 2014 at 2:11 pm

    What a great topic! It is time to check my smoke detectors and this is a perfect reason to do it! Love the blog Pat!


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