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Upstate’s Burn Center receives national recognition for smoke alarm giveaway program

Upstate University Hospitals' Clark Burn Center has been awarded the 2023 American Burn Association Burn Prevention Award for exceptional burn prevention.

The ABA recognizes the Clark Burn Center as a prevention leader in the burn community by achieving wide-scale reduction of burn injuries and progress toward the elimination of burn injuries by utilizing community partnerships.

The center started its own smoke alarm giveaway program two years ago called “Install the Device & Save a Life.” The program provides participants with a 10-year smoke alarm, along with education about how to install the alarm themselves.

Burn Program Manager Tamara Roberts, MSN, said this program is unique in that most smoke alarm programs require an appointment and a trained staff member to install it, or rely on the local fire department to install it.

“This life-saving skill can be brought with them wherever they move,” Roberts said. “Not all communities have fire departments who provide this service. We really want participants to be empowered to learn how to keep their homes and families safe no matter what. Many of our participants have commented that they had no idea that they could do this themselves.” 

Roberts and Kara Judd, EMT-B and Clark’s burn data coordinator, are both nationally certified as Fire Life Safety Educators who have spearheaded this effort, along with representatives from Upstate Poison Control and Safe Kids.

Roberts said they look at recent burn data to see where there have been fatalities or injuries from fires and then they target that area for a giveaway.

They have held two giveaways, one in the city of Syracuse at Brady Market and one in East Syracuse at Wegmans. The next one will take place this spring in North Syracuse.

They distributed 164 smoke alarms and partnered with local fire departments at the events, who offered participants information on exit drills in the home, fire safety, and prevention. Upstate Poison Control and Safe Kids are also offered valuable education on home safety and carbon monoxide poisoning.

“Truly this collaboration has had a positive impact on the reduction of inhalation injuries and burns due to delayed escape during a home fire,” Judd said. “When a smoke alarm alerts, residents have only two to three minutes to escape before high heat and toxic smoke can overcome them. A lack of smoke alarms has proved deadly in our local communities, and we wanted to be a part of a real solution.”

Liz Sapio, Safe Kids Upstate New York Coordinator; Lee Livermore, Public Health Educator for the Upstate New York Poison Center and Khadijah Osborne, RN, from the Burn Unit are also involved in the programming.

Funding from the Upstate Foundation and Burn Foundation of CNY has paid for the smoke alarms. Roberts said the goal is to continue the program and expand it outside of Onondaga County and to find corporate sponsorships to make it sustainable.

Caption: Members of the committee spearheading the Install the Device & Save a Life program are, from left, Darlene Marko, Kara Judd, Tamara Roberts, Liz Sapio and Joan Dolinak MD. Not pictured are Khadijah Osborne and Lee Livermore.