In early 1982, three members of the Illinois Fire Chiefs Association came together to formulate a plan to make smoke detector protection mandatory for every residential occupancy in the state – one of these members was Tom O’Connell, Commanding Officer for the Public Education Program for the Chicago Fire Department.
The original committee formed was known as the Smoke Detector Awareness Committee and indeed, in just two years, the State of Illinois did pass a law requiring smoke detector protection wherever people slept; in single family homes, apartment buildings, hotels and motels, in hospitals, and in nursing homes. The Illinois Smoke Detector Law was one of the most comprehensive smoke detector laws in the country at the time.
In its efforts to promote the passage of this law, the Smoke Detector Awareness Committee had drawn its membership from virtually every fire service organization in the State of Illinois. The idea of using the resources of this original organization to address issues of common interest to the fire service, was too hard to resist. Thus, the Smoke Detector Awareness Committee evolved into the Illinois Fire Safety Alliance.
The Alliance then moved into other areas other than legislative. From 1988 to 1990 the Alliance sponsored almost 30 Illinois children for attendance at a summer camp for burned children held annually in Estes Park, Colorado. The response of the children and their parents to the camp experience was 100% positive. This was enough to inspire the IFSA to establish a Burn Camp in Illinois. In 1991, “Burn Camp Illinois” became a reality.
Also, when the Chicago Association of Commerce and Industry decided to drop their annual Fire Prevention Week Luncheon because of poor attendance, the IFSA took over sponsorship. Subsequently, each year of the Luncheon had seen an increase in attendance. In 1990, more than 500 representatives of the fire service and related industries attended the event, which commemorates the anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. This year will represent the 80th anniversary of this event.
All of this, in additional to other fire service projects across the state and country, were completed within 10 years and with the leadership and drive from Tom and others who had a passion for fire prevention and supporting those effected by burns.
Thomas Joseph O’Connell was 88 years old. Complete Obituary.