Wisconsin’s Sound the Alarm. Save a Life., home fire campaign installs 1,066 smoke alarms, making 366 homes safer and providing services for 821 people across the state

By Laura McGuire and Jennifer Warren, American Red Cross

Doug Milks with the Madison Fire Department unpacking a smoke alarm

The American Red Cross Sound the Alarm. Save a Life., home fire safety campaign returned to cities throughout Wisconsin including Madison and Milwaukee.

Home fires claim seven lives every day but having working smoke alarms can cut the risk of death by half.

That is why the Red Cross rallied volunteers to install free smoke alarms nationwide, as part of our Sound the Alarm events.

Between April and May of 2023, we visited homes in at-risk communities to educate families about home fire safety, created escape plans, and installed free smoke alarms. These actions helped to make homes safer.

Doug Milks with the Madison Fire Department testing the smoke alarm

Here in Wisconsin during the 2023 Sound the Alarm event we:

  • Installed 1,066 smoke alarms for a cumulative total of more than 31,172 installations since the program began.
  • Made 366 household safer, with a cumulative total of over 13,620 households served since the initiative was started.
  • Served 821 people, with a cumulative total of more than 34,071 people served since program inception.

Sound the Alarm Madison

As the sun rose over Lake Monona on Saturday, April 15, 2023, 67 volunteers including members from the Madison Fire Department showed up in the lobby of M3 Insurance, the central gathering point for the Sound the Alarm Madison event.

Volunteers being trained on smoke alarm installations

When volunteers arrived, they received t-shirts, food and free training that included how to install smoke alarms, how to coordinate home escape plans and communicate safety tips with homeowners. Teams of three volunteers were grouped together, trained, given their appointment lists, maps and supplies before heading out to the community.

Jan Kramer and Sharon Raimondo reviewing home fire safety tips

Once on site you were able to see volunteers welcomed by homeowners carry ladders, drills, equipment, and boxes of smoke alarms. Homeowners welcomed these volunteers into their homes knowing that when the volunteers left, their homes would be safer.

Sharon Raimondo was one of over two hundred appointments scheduled for the day. Raimondo stated that she had smoke alarms installed about ten years ago and knew it was time to have them replaced. Three volunteers visited her home to replace the expired smoke alarms and reviewed a home escape plan and offered Red Cross preparedness tips. “This is an amazing program,” said Raimondo.

Bill and Sharon Raimondo

Raimondo, a mother of a disabled son, reminded us that a mother’s love never ends. After her home safety visit, the team visited her son’s condominium to make sure his home was as safe as hers. “It’s such a simple act of kindness,” says Raimondo. “We are so appreciative of the Red Cross providing this wonderful service. It’s incredible!”

Madison’s event made 169 homes safer by installing 538 smoke alarms helping 314 people.

This work is made possible thanks to generous financial donations from our local partners in Madison: M3 Insurance, Hooper and Wisconsin Public Service Foundation. Special thanks to the Madison Fire Department and International Association of Fire Fighters Local 311.

Here’s a brief video of the day’s event: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gt97nxrfG34 (Video credits Bob Minsberg)

Sound the Alarm – Milwaukee

Meier Family and Red Cross installation team

Together with the Milwaukee Fire Department, Red Cross volunteers installed 301 free smoke alarms in local homes, on Saturday, May 6th as part of the nineth annual Sound the Alarm event in Milwaukee. In addition to installing traditional smoke alarms, the Red Cross also provides free bed shaker alarms for those who are deaf or hard of hearing. The bed shaker alarm is placed under a pillow, or a mattress and it produces a vibration along with a strobe light that awakens the sleeping individual. More importantly, the bed shaker is also activated when an accompanying traditional smoke alarm sounds.

The Meier family of Wauwatosa received a bed shaker alarm for their eight-year-old daughter Hadley’s bedroom. Hadley was born deaf and has cochlear implants to help her hear, her mother Ali learned about the bed shaker alarms and the Sound the Alarm program via social media.

Bed Shaker Alarm

“We are so thankful for this amazing service that the Red Cross provides,” Ali said. “Hadley is a sleepyhead so we are glad we can also use the bed shaker as an alarm, which will make it much easier for Hadley to get up and off to school.”

The Milwaukee Sound the Alarm event drew 126 volunteers that helped make 121 homes safer.

The Sound the Alarm event in Milwaukee is made possible thanks to generous financial donations from our local partners including Delta Dental, Forest County Potawatomi Foundation, United Way of Milwaukee and Waukesha County, We Energies Foundation and the Milwaukee Fire Department.

Volunteers make our mission possible

Thank you to all our volunteers who helped during the Sound the Alarm event we couldn’t have done it without you!

Tom Bray and David Bishop have been volunteering for the Red Cross of Southeast Wisconsin for over a year as part of the Disaster Action Team (DAT). When driving to the office the day before the Sound the Alarm event in Milwaukee, they received a call that a family needed assistance. The volunteer duo arrived on scene and visited with the family outside their burning home providing comfort, care and aligning them with Red Cross services. They shared that the family escaped the fire when they heard their smoke alarm go off.

Red Cross Volunteer, Tom Bray
Red Cross Volunteer, David Bishop

“Being a frontline responder for DAT and having witnessed firsthand the loss of material possessions and even the loss of life, I feel strongly that if a person has a working smoke alarm, they are more likely to escape the situation and survive,” said Bray.

Bray and Bishop both pivoted and responded to a family in need before resuming their day to help charge drills and get equipment prepped for the Sound the Alarm event in Milwaukee.

“During events like this one, besides installing free smoke detectors, we teach every home how to do a two-minute drill. In the event of a fire does your family have a plan? Do you have two ways to exit out of each room? Do you have a meeting place,” said Bishop as he was visiting with others before heading out to the Milwaukee community.

To ensure your family is prepared in case of a fire, test your smoke alarms monthly and practice your two-minute home fire escape plan. Visit redcross.org/fire for additional safety tips.

To learn how you can join the Red Cross Sound the Alarm event as a volunteer or to make a financial donation to prepare, respond and help families recover from home fires, visit: https://www.redcross.org/local/wisconsin/about-us/our-work/home-fire-campaign.html.

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