Brown County Fire Rally Brought Volunteers and Partners Together to Save Lives
By Dawn Miller, American Red Cross Volunteer
Excitement was brewing at the Ashwaubenon High School as American Red Cross members and more than 150 volunteers from across Wisconsin came together on April 23, 2016 for the Brown County Fire Rally. All with one large goal in mind, to make Brown County families safer by installing up to 1000 smoke alarms.
“I was feeling excited and anxious as everyone gathered in the gymnasium because of all the work the team put into making this event happen,” said Nick Cluppert, Disaster Program Manager and the event coordinator. “It was great to finally see the event happen after months of planning. We had people from different Red Cross departments help pull together specifics, and we couldn’t have done it without lots of community partners including the Salvation Army, Public Health, Human Services, food pantries, multiple Fire Departments, local businesses and more,” said Nick. Sponsors of the event included: State Farm, Festival Foods, Nature’s Way, United Way 2-1-1 and the American Red Cross – Tiffany Circle
Volunteers registered and received supplies, including stepladders, 10-year lithium battery smoke alarms and Snap-on tool bags with a drill, bits, screwdrivers and safety goggles. Volunteers also watched the ‘how to install an alarm’ video and now had an opportunity to practice on the installation wall.
Steve Hansen, Chapter Executive, and Nick spoke to the group on what to expect and the importance of the smoke alarm rally. The effort is part of an ongoing, five-year campaign by the American Red Cross to reduce deaths and injuries caused by home fires by 25 percent. A working smoke alarm can increase chances of survival by 50%.
Paul Hajny, a fire survivor, spoke to the group about a fire he and his wife, Jenna, were in five years ago. Paul who is now very conscious smoke alarms and fire safety, he shared how important it was that they reach residents who might not be thinking about fire safety. “I never thought it would happen, but it happened,” says Paul.
Four person teams received maps of pre-canvassed areas that were identified by local fire departments as higher risk areas. Paul and Jenna were part of a team that went door-to-door to install smoke alarms in an effort to save lives. After a few unanswered doors, Karen flagged them down to install alarms in her home. They checked alarms for Darla whose small stature and age made it unwise for her to climb on a stepladder to check them. The team assured her that all alarms were in working order. They installed brand new alarms for James, a veteran, whose alarms were well over 10-years-old and had yellowed with age.
At every house, they shared information on fire safety, checked smoke alarms and, if they weren’t working, installed batteries or new alarms. “People were very appreciative,” said Jenna Hajny. “These days it’s hard to let people in your home but they were very welcoming.”
They were also welcomed in by Judy whose family was getting ready for a birthday party for her young daughter. After installing alarms the volunteers were invited back to join the party when they finished their route but they had much ground to cover.
After finishing their designated route, the volunteers were flagged down by a Grandma to install alarms in the home of her daughter’s family, setting them in the direction of another area that needed smoke alarms.
“I was surprised at how many homes didn’t have working smoke alarms,” said Paul. Some homes had no alarms, some were pulled off the walls, missing batteries or not working.
“There was one house with four alarms and none of them were plugged in,” said Paul. After installing four new alarms, they shared fire safety and escape plan information with the family which included young children.
This one team installed 18 alarms and restored others to working order by installing batteries. Together, all teams installed 857 smoke alarms and 61 batteries so now there are now 918 more working smoke alarms just in Brown County. They also raised much awareness across the community to make sure residents know about fire safety.
Paul and Jenna were both happy to give back after the American Red Cross had helped them after their fire and were thankful to be part of such a great group of volunteers. “It’s good to know there are good resources in the community and people who want to help,” said Paul.
“I think we can all rest well tonight. We walked a lot, did what we could,” said Jenna. “I hope it (a fire) never happens but if it does they have working alarms.”
“Having a working smoke alarm can save a life,” says Barbara Behling, American Red Cross Spokesperson. “Statistically, having installed more than 1,000 alarms in April, we saved a life.” Neighbors, and anyone in Wisconsin, who needs a smoke alarm, can visit getasmokealarm.org to request them.
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