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FEMA grant will fund purchase of Safe-T-sensors for microwaves

Nuisance fire calls to residence halls will be reduced

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) awarded a $387,848.00 grant to Ohio University in July. The majority of the funds will be used to purchase about 4,500 Safe-T-sensors for residence hall rooms.
The Safe-T-sensors, which retail for about $75 each, will be installed on all microwaves in university housing facilities during the next three to six months. The sensor is a small electronic device that senses the presence of smoke in very small quantities and shuts off the device it is connected to before the building smoke detector and alarm system is activated.

A study by Ohio University Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) based on information provided by the Athens Fire Department (AFD) found that the majority of the fire department's nuisance alarms on campus were caused by burnt food in microwave ovens.

In October 2009, EHS submitted the grant application to FEMA to help reduce the occurrence of nuisance fire alarms and the associated runs by AFD to university housing facilities.

"Our hope is that the Safe-T-sensors reduce Athens Fire Department nuisance runs to residence halls by a minimum of 75 percent," said EHS Director Joe Adams. "Best case scenario is a 90-percent reduction. In the near future, we will evaluate their effectiveness."

Adams said the idea to apply for the one-time grant came from meetings between AFD Chief Bob Troxel and university fire protection engineers Brent Auker and Bill Henestofel. 

Adams estimated a cost of more than $2,000 for AFD to make a run to campus. If the sensors can eliminate about 100 runs over a three-year period, the resulting savings would be significant for everyone involved.

"We have always worked good with Chief Troxel and the Safe-T-sensors initiative just strengthens the university's relationship with the fire department and saves everyone valuable time and money," Adams said.

The remaining FEMA grant funds will be used for training and education programs for students on the new sensors and general residence hall fire safety.