SOUTH ORANGE, NJ — Village Trustee Steve Schnall moderated an online town hall Tuesday for South Orange first responders to address issues of home safety in the community.

“Smoke detectors: cheap insurance that will save your life,” said Chief Daniel Sullivan of the South Orange Fire Department. He told residents that SOFD prefers the Kidde Nighthawk combination smoke and carbon monoxide detector.

“Carbon monoxide is a silent killer, odorless and tasteless, but it can kill you,” Sullivan continued. He advised all households, specifically young families, create fire exit plans. Each plan, said Chief Sullivan, should cover a different scenario. Take into account if the fire is in the front or the back of the house, or which floor of the house it's on, and where everyone in the family should meet outside that is a safe distance from the fire. “Take all these actions and the life you save may be your own.”

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Other than kitchen fires, dryer fires are very common in South Orange, according to Deputy Chief John Denvir. He said they are usually caused by clogged vents in the dryer or tubing that leads to the outdoor vent. Sullivan went on to add that dryer fires are one of the leading causes of structural fires in the United States. If your dryer takes two or three cycles to dry the clothes, that’s a good sign that it’s clogged with lint, he said.

Lieutenant Adrian Acevedo of the South Orange Police Department gave pointers to residents on how to make their homes more secure.

“The easiest thing to do for your doors is to change the screws on your door hardware,” said Lt. Acevedo. He emphasized that no matter how fancy the lock is if it uses small screws it will be fairly easy to kick in, which he says is the number one way burglars get into locked homes.

Acevedo recommended 3.5 to 4 inch screws because they will go through the door frame into the structure of the home. 

With those in place, he said, “I can kick that door for quite a while before it opens up.” Motion activated lights are another way he suggested keeping your home safe.

When it comes to the popular front door cameras, Lt. Acevedo says SOPD has had a good rate of success using them in investigations. However, for other cameras on the property, he asserted that high resolution is more important than a wide angle camera. This is because when it is time to identify a suspect, a pixilated close up is not going to do much good.

Any South Orange resident can request SOPD do a security analysis of their home. Afterwards SOPD will create a 40-page report highlighting all the weak points and places for security improvement on your property. Similarly, when residents go out of town they can register their house on the ‘Vacation Log’ and SOPD will regularly stop by with the knowledge that no one is supposed to be in the home.

SOPD also offers lock boxes that they will put in the back of your home with a spare key, so they can access the house in the case of an emergency. These are primarily reserved for senior citizens and adults who have a medical condition that could prevent them from getting to the door in an emergency.

Captain Sean Cass from the South Orange Rescue Squad spoke briefly about ways residents can help the rescue squad save seconds in an emergency. His main concern was the visibility of house numbers. Especially at night when the first responders need to find your home, having illuminated numbers can make a big difference, he said.

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