OTHER VOICES

The power to help others and ourselves

Posted Nov. 05, 2012, at 12:11 p.m.

Business owners on Long Island are delivering hot meals to families stranded by superstorm Sandy in Hoboken, N.J.

Retired people are volunteering to make sandwiches at public shelters throughout the metropolitan New York area.

Volunteers are helping ambulance crews move the sick and injured to nursing homes and hospitals all along the East Coast.

Public employees are working extra hours to ensure public safety, and power crews are crossing state lines under generous mutual aid agreements to help restore power.

What we’re seeing unfold in the aftermath of Sandy has more than a tinge of Ice Storm ’98 deja vu.

We’re seeing neighbors helping neighbors, regardless of age, wealth or gender. We’re seeing people donate hard-earned dollars to help those who have lost their homes and their belongings. And we’re watching as friends and family cling together in despair and gratitude.

We saw it at home in 1998.

We saw it in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

We saw it after the “Super Tuesday” tornado spree in 2008.

We saw it during weeks of fire sweeping across Colorado earlier this year.

And we’re seeing it again as Americans work to recover from Sandy.

These events, as traumatic and distressing as they are, bring people together in a way that make us completely and wonderfully human.

•••

The city of Auburn was the first city in the country to ban smoking in public housing, a trend quickly picked up in Lewiston and then across the state, making Maine a national leader in public health.

This week, Maine took another step in leadership by requiring all future MaineHousing units built and financed by the Low Income Housing Tax Credit to be completely smoke free. We are the first state in the country to take this important step.

It’s a positive step in health protection, but it’s also a tremendous move forward in wise expenditure of public money, since smoke-free housing units are less expensive to maintain. According to Sarah Mayberry, coordinator of the Smoke-Free Housing Coalition of Maine, “landlord changeover expenses for smoke-free apartments are five to ten times less expensive than units that allow smoking.”

And, since the public is the landlord for MaineHousing projects, the public wallet benefits from this new requirement.

Maine has been a leader in using tobacco settlement funds for care and prevention, in banning smoking in public housing, parks and other public places and, now, in tying public housing investment with smoke-free restrictions.

•••

Replace the batteries in your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms. And once the new batteries are in, check to make sure the alarms are working.

This practice of changing alarm batteries when we spring forward into daylight saving time and then fall back in November has been a public service project of the International Fire Chiefs Association for the past quarter-century for good reason.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, almost two-thirds of home fire deaths in this country result from fires in properties without working smoke alarms. Of those deaths — about 3,500 people every year — 80 percent are children.

That’s an alarming statistic that could easily be reduced with a little attention to installing alarms and then ensuring they are powered up and running.

If your home is not equipped with alarms, and you cannot afford to purchase them, contact your local fire department for assistance.

Maine has a lower than average fire death rate. Let’s all do our part to keep it that way.

Sun Journal, Lewiston (Nov.3)

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