“Smoke is our enemy,” added Washington Housing Authority Director Bill O’Brian. “There is not a lot that can burn except for their personal belongings.”
The Housing Authority has made some upgrades to the building to reduce the possibility of a fatal fire including adding a sprinkler system. “We now have a sprinkler in every room,” said O’Brian. “We did that five or six years ago for safety and security reasons. It’s the best thing we could have done for the building and its residents. We hope there is never a fire, but if it happens we want to hit it with water as quickly as we can.”
To combat smoke the Housing Authority has also installed sensitive smoke detectors throughout the building. “They are very sensitive and we make a lot of runs over there to check them out,” said Rhoads, “but that’s okay.”
“Most of the time, they come over here and it is just burnt toast,” added O’Brian. “They are very sensitive, but we want to keep them that way.”
The fire and safety system also are checked on a regular basis to make certain they are operating properly. “We do a daily preventive maintenance inspection that includes the boiler, security system and fire safety,” said O’Brian.
“We also have certified professionals come in quarterly to check the sprinkler system and every six months someone checks the alarms. We try to make this the safest buildings around as far as fire is concerned.”
Despite those efforts for fire fighters the worry never goes away. “Some people kind of take it for granted that it is safe,” said Rhoads. “We talk about it on a daily basis, and with that many people living there it will always be a concern.”