Installing smoke alarms and peace of mind

by Justin Kern, American Red Cross of Wisconsin

For Renee Hovland and Ms. Bowman, volunteers installed peace of mind along with smoke alarms during recent communitywide events.

The two Wisconsin residents welcomed Red Cross volunteers and partners into their respective homes as part of “Sound the Alarm, Save a Life,” a national campaign to reduce injury and death from home fires.

Madison STASAL volunteers prep

Volunteers receive tools, alarms and instruction in Madison at event host, American Family Insurance HQ.

Hundreds of volunteers teamed up with a goal to install 1,400 smoke alarms during separate, daylong events in Milwaukee and Madison. Other cities and counties have or will hold their own installation roundups. (Click here to sign up for a free smoke alarm installed as part of this ongoing campaign.)

During the recent communitywide events in Milwaukee and Madison, Renee and Ms. Bowman shared the stories behind their installations.

‘It means the world to me’
Renee Hovland and her family know firsthand the impact of a house fire.

On the afternoon of New Year’s Eve, 11 years ago, a candle burned out of control and “took down our whole house,” she said. Seven fire crews came to the site of their house in McFarland, on the outskirts of Madison, even tapping a neighbor’s pool to help contain the blaze.

The Hovlands – Renee, her husband Eric, their two daughters, plus three dogs and two cats – lost that home and all their possessions. But, they were alive and unscathed. They rebuilt on the same property.

Madison Sound the Alarm install family

Charles installs an alarm at the Hovland house with his family team, Crystal (center) and Samantha.

So, when they received a flyer about the fire department and Red Cross teaming up to install smoke alarms on May 5, Renee made an appointment.

“We had hardwired smoke detectors when we rebuilt and some of them are past the date that they’re still working,” Renee said. “It’s been something that’s bothering me, knowing that don’t have current alarm equipment that’s working. To me, this is a huge deal.”

A volunteer team of four family members installed five smoke alarms in the Hovland house and talked through an escape plan with Eric. As Renee brought their dogs outside to prevent a distraction, she reflected on the sense of security she’s gained from the free installations.

“It means the world to me,” she said. “I honestly can’t afford to buy that many [smoke alarms] and putting them up on a ladder, with my health, I can’t do that. It’s huge, a huge help.”

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In his Milwaukee kitchen, Donta Geter, right, talks through a fire escape plan with Red Cross volunteer Shelly Grasso.

‘That’s a blessing’
Donta Geter invited a team of Red Cross volunteers from Marquette University into his family’s majestic, three-story red brick home in Milwaukee’s Cold Spring Park neighborhood on April 28. Donta pointed to a few spots in and around the living room that lacked a working smoke alarm. Then, he helped his grandmother – who introduced herself as “Ms. Bowman” – into the kitchen to establish a fire escape plan with volunteer Shelly Grasso.

Shelly drew an escape map onto a dry erase board with input from Donta and Ms. Bowman, as the other volunteers snaked their way up the home’s back stairwell to install alarms on the second story and in the attic.

“Nope, we don’t have a plan,” said Ms. Bowman. “We were always under the assumption that if there’s a front entrance and a back exit, you go out [of one of those]. But … you might have to go out of one of these windows!”

Milwaukee Sound the Alarm pin 2018Ms. Bowman and Donta talked with Shelly about the best ways to get out in the event of a disaster, and then posted that map on their refrigerator. In the meantime the other volunteers had finished installing three new alarms and replacing another.
Ms. Bowman remarked: “Thank you for all of this. That’s a blessing.”

For more information on the home fire safety campaign – including installation signups and volunteering – click here.

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Red Cross Reminder: Check Smoke Alarms When Clocks Spring Forward

Nationwide home fire campaign aims to reduce the number of home fire deaths, injuries

daylight-saving-time-570Daylight Saving Time is this weekend and when everyone turns their clocks ahead, the American Red Cross reminds them to also take these steps to make sure their household is prepared for emergencies.

We urge people to take these steps now and know what they should do if an emergency occurs.

  • Check smoke alarm batteries. When turning the clocks ahead, take a few minutes to replace the smoke alarm batteries and push the test button to make sure the alarms are working. It’s also a great time to check carbon monoxide detectors.
  • Install smoke alarms. If someone doesn’t have smoke alarms, install them. At a minimum, put one on every level of the home, inside bedrooms and outside sleeping areas. Check local building codes for additional requirements.
  • Practice an escape plan. Make sure everyone in the family knows how to get out of every room and how to get out of the home in less than two minutes.
  • Get a kit. Keep disaster supplies in an easy-to-carry bag to use at home or carry in case ordered to evacuate.
  • Make a plan. Have all household members plan what steps they should take if an emergency occurs.
  • Be informed. Learn what emergencies can occur in the area and how officials notify residents should a disaster occur.

Home Fire Preparedness Campaign The Red Cross responds to 70,000 disasters across the country every year and most of these are home fires. Tragically, some people lose their lives in these fires, countless others are injured. The Red Cross has launched the Home Fire Preparedness Campaign to reduce the number of deaths and injuries due to home fires by 25 percent over the next five years.

The campaign is happening all over the country and involves Red Cross workers joining with local fire departments and community groups to visit neighborhoods at high risk for fires. Those visits include educating people about fire safety through door-to-door visits and installation of smoke alarms in some of these neighborhoods.

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Help the American Red Cross Save Lives!

10710893_10152718411990071_1668250310886687572_nSeven times a day in the United States, someone dies in a home fire. Even more frequently, American Red Cross volunteers provide help to families who have lost their homes to devastating fires. It is more important than ever that we all join together to save lives, reduce injuries and cut down on needless losses from home fires.

We are asking you to join us in this nationwide public initiative that aims to reduce the number of fire deaths and injuries in the U.S. by 25 percent within five years.

Register today for the Home Fire Preparedness Campaign in Green Bay, WI! Dates we are looking for volunteers to help with this campaign:

  • Saturday, February, 21st, 9am – 11am (distributre  door hangers)
  • Saturday February, 28th, 8:30am – 12pm  (install smoke detectors) 

For both of these dates we will have volunteers meet at Fire Station #3, 885 Shawano Ave. Green Bay, 54303

Click the button to sign up!

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Red Cross Campaign To Reduce Home Fire Deaths and Injuries Begins in Kaukauna

Efforts will include installing smoke alarms and urging people to practice fire escape plans

10710893_10152718411990071_1668250310886687572_nRecently, the American Red Cross announced a new campaign throughout Wisconsin and across the country to reduce deaths and injuries from home fires by as much as 25 percent over the next five years. Two days in December, teams will visit 500 homes in Kaukauna to install smoke alarms and provide fire safety tips and review escape plans with residents.

Seven times a day someone in this country dies in a fire. The Red Cross campaign focuses on joining fire departments and community groups nationwide to install smoke alarms in communities with high numbers of fires and encouraging everyone to practice their fire escape plans.

The Red Cross also is asking every household in America to take the two simple steps that can save lives: checking their existing smoke alarms and practicing fire drills at home.

The door-to-door outreach team includes Red Cross volunteers & staff, the Kaukauna Fire Department, Volunteer Center of East Central WI, Outagamie County CERT and Team Rubicon.  

  • Sunday, December 7th 9:00am – Canvas targeted neighborhood with door hangers in advance so residents know we are returning the following Saturday with smoke alarms and information.
  • Saturday, December 13th 8:30am-12:00pm – Smoke Detector Installation

On both dates, we will meet at the Kaukauna Fire Department on 206 W. 3rd Street. We will create teams, distribute supplies and then go door-to-door.

Teams will be partnered with local fire departments to install smoke alarms in homes that need them and teach people about what they can do now to be prepared should a fire break out in their home because working smoke alarms cuts the risk of someone dying from a home fire in half.

Simple Steps to Save Lives

Even as the Red Cross and other groups install smoke alarms in some neighborhoods, they are calling on everyone to take two simple steps that can save lives: check their existing smoke alarms and practice fire drills at home,

There are several things families and individuals can do to increase their chances of surviving a fire:

  • If someone doesn’t have smoke alarms, install them. At a minimum, put one on every level of the home, inside bedrooms and outside sleeping areas. Local building codes vary and there may be additional requirements where someone lives.
  • If someone does have alarms, test them today. If they don’t work, replace them.
  • Make sure that everyone in the family knows how to get out of every room and how to get out of the home in less than two minutes.
  • Practice that plan. What’s the household’s escape time?

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New Poll Shows Many People Have False Sense of Security about Fire Safety

The Red Cross fire preparedness campaign comes at a time when a new national survey shows many Americans have a false sense of security about surviving a fire. The survey, conducted for the Red Cross, shows that people mistakenly believe they have more time than they really do to escape a burning home.

Fire experts agree that people may have as little as two minutes to escape a burning home before it’s too late to get out. But most Americans (62 percent) mistakenly believe they have at least five minutes to escape. Nearly one in five (18 percent) believe they have ten minutes or more.

When asked about their confidence levels in actually escaping a burning home, roughly four in 10 of those polled (42 percent) believed they could get out in two minutes.

While 69 percent of parents believe their children would know what to do or how to escape with little help, the survey found that many families had not taken necessary steps to support that level of confidence.

  • Less than one in five of families with children age 3-17 (18 percent) report that they’ve actually practiced home fire drills.
  • Less than half of parents (48 percent) have talked to their families about fire safety.
  • Only one third of families with children (30 percent) have identified a safe place to meet outside their home.

The Red Cross responds to nearly 70,000 disasters each year in the United States and the vast majority of those are home fires. Throughout Wisconsin, the Red Cross responded to more than 900 residential fires last year. You can help people affected by disasters like home fires and countless other crises by making a donation to support American Red Cross Disaster Relief. Your gift enables the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters big and small. Visit redcross.org, call 1-800-RED CROSS or text the REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

The national public opinion survey was conducted for the Red Cross July 17-20, 2014 using ORC International’s Online CARAVAN omnibus survey. The study was conducted among a national sample of 1,130 American adults, including 311 parents of children aged 3-17. The total sample is balanced to be representative of the US adult population in terms of age, sex, geographic region, race and education.  The margin of error for the total sample of 1,130 adults is +/- 2.92 percent. The margin of error for the sample of 311 parents is +/- 5.56 percent.

American Red Cross Fire Safety Tips Help to Save Lives

Install Smoke Alarms and Create a Fire Escape Plan

This October 7-13 the American Red Cross is helping families and businesses learn how to protect themselves and others from fires in observance of National Fire Prevention Week. Last year, the Red Cross responded to about 63,000 home fires across the country by providing comfort and basic necessities to more than 82,000 families.

“We respond to about one home fire every nine minutes across the country. The best thing you can do to protect your loved ones is to install a smoke alarm and  develop and practice a fire escape plan,” said Steve Hansen, Chapter Executive,“Fires can spread very quickly, so everyone at home, school and work should know what to do when they hear the sound of a smoke alarm.”

 Additional recommendations include:

  • Install smoke alarms on every level of the house and inside bedrooms.
  • Replace batteries in smoke alarms at least once a year. Test each alarm monthly by pushing the test button.
  • Ensure that household members know two ways to escape from every room and designate a place to meet outside of your house in case of a fire. Practice your plan at least twice a year.
  • Follow your escape plan in case of fire. Get out, stay out, and call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number.
  • Download the American Red Cross First Aid App to get access to life-saving information on what to do for common, everyday first aid emergencies. The app is available in the Apple App Store and on Google Play for Android.

Visit www.redcross.org/homefires for additional fire safety tips. 

Business, too, should be prepared. Fire is the most common of all business disasters. According to the United State Fire Association, non-residential building fires resulted in $2.4 billion in losses in 2010. Companies, schools and other organizations can learn how to prepare for fires and other emergencies by becoming a member of the Red Cross Ready Rating™ Program at www.readyrating.org. Complete a free, online assessment of your current readiness level and receive customized feedback with tips to improve preparedness.

In addition to helping families and businesses prepare their homes and facilities for potential fires, the Red Cross is there to help those in need when fires break out. Locally, we are responded to fires every single day throughout our region! In each instance, we work with the family to provide a shoulder to lean-on, help them plan a recovery plan and provide immediate basic needs such as providing a safe place to sleep, food to eat, infant supplies, replace medications, etc.

Throughout October, we are collaborating on several local projects including delivering fire prevention door hangers in Campbellsport, Oakfield and North Fond du Lac on October 27th. This is conjunction with the fire departments and the Gannett newspaper Make a Difference Day project. We will also be at the Fox Valley Technical College Convoy of Hope on October 6th from 10:00a.m. to 4:00p.m. and the Kimberly Clark Employee Safety Fair on October 18th. More events are also in planning stages.

“In order to continue responding to disasters like fires at homes and businesses here in throughout the greater Fox Valley and Michigan border communities, the Red Cross depends on the generous support of individuals and businesses in the community,” added Hansen. “To support our on-going prevention and responses, we ask people to make a financial gift to the Red Cross. We make it easy as you can call 800-RED-CROSS, go to redcross.org or text redcross to 90999 to make a $10 donation.