Hundreds of bad smoke alarms and thousands of dead batteries – in all, 86 percent of more than a thousand London homes under-protected from fire.

But not anymore, thanks to a partnership between London Hydro, the London Fire Department (LFD) and the Salvation Army.

“Unique in North America,” the saveONenergy HOME ASSISTANCE program (HAP) has received the Ontario Fire Marshal’s Safety Award for installing working smoke alarms and good batteries in hundreds of homes while performing efficiency upgrades.

“Our technicians are already in the customer’s home conducting energy upgrades, so we asked if there was something else we could do during our visit,” CEO Vinay Sharma said in a news release. “We determined that adding fire protection and electrical safety to our processes would not take much longer and would add a lot of value for the customer.”

London Hydro workers specially trained by the LFD installed the life saving equipment in 1,102 homes, 86 percent found to be under-protected. They distributed educational material and installed 275 alarms in 202 homes and gave more than 2,100 batteries away at 816, while 106 received both.

“This very deserving and prestigious award recognizes London Hydro’s innovation, leadership and contributions within the community, in this case by assisting the London Fire Department fulfill its mandate,” Fire Chief John Kobarda said. “London Hydro’s HAP is important from a fire safety perspective because the energy efficient updates also contribute to reducing the risk of electrical fires.”

There’s likely no one more pleased about the award than Mohan Mathur, who was named chair of the London Hydro board of directors this week.

A former dean of engineering at Western University, Mathur was appointed to the board in 2005.

Mathur, most recently retired as president and CEO of University Network of Excellence in Nuclear Engineering Inc., is also a member of the Institute of Corporate Directors. He replaces Peter Johnson, who became chair in 2005 and will remain a director.

Accountant Bernard Borschke, former CFO of Big V Pharmacies and also appointed to the Hydro board in 2005, was named vice-chair.