Smoke alarms are first line of defense to fight fires

By Kathleen Todd for the American Red Cross Minnesota Region

American Red Cross Minnesota Region smoke alarm installation, 2015.

When Suzie Olson of Saint Paul had a recent American Red Cross Home Fire Campaign visit, she had a big surprise.

“None of my smoke alarms actually worked. While I thought I had been on top of changing the batteries, my smoke detectors were so old that the smoke alarm itself was completely nonfunctional,” Olson says.  “I thought I had been so responsible about it.”

Olson took the first step to detecting a fire and now she wants others to take action. And the Red Cross wants to ensure that every household has working smoke alarms.

Please check the alarms in your home to see if they’re working. If not, replace the batteries or the alarms. The Red Cross can help you do this. Our Home Fire Campaign makes it possible for the Red Cross to install free smoke alarms that will help save lives during home fires.

Multi-unit apartment building fire, Robbinsdale, MN, 2016. Photo by Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross

The American Red Cross responds on average 60,000 disasters each year in the United Sates – and the vast majority of these are home fires. Since 2014, the Red Cross, in partnership with fire departments and other local groups, has visited homes and installed over a million free smoke alarms nationwide. Through these efforts, the Red Cross has saved over 250 lives.

In 2016, 43 Minnesotans lost their lives in fires. In 33 percent of the residential casualties, smoke alarms were absent or non-operating.

To request a smoke alarm installation for your home, community members can call 612-871-7676 or visit getasmokealarm.org. Appointments typically take 20-30 minutes.

Minnesota fire statistics provided by Minnesota State Fire Marshal

Sound the Alarm with the Red Cross

Most fire deaths are preventable. One major tool for prevention is a working smoke alarm. Yet, last year in Minnesota seven people died in fires in homes without working smoke alarms. And fire deaths are up 36 percent over this same time last year. To reduce home fire deaths and injuries volunteers and partners with the American Red Cross Minnesota Region will participate in Sound the Alarm.

“We need the public’s help to keep the number of fire deaths from climbing.” Bruce West, Minnesota State Fire Marshal

Between September 23 and October 15, 2017, the American Red Cross will install 100,000 free smoke alarms in more than 100 high-risk neighborhoods nationwide. During this period, the Red Cross will install its one-millionth free smoke alarm. This includes installing 1,525 alarms in the Minnesota Region of the American Red Cross. This surge expands the Home Fire Campaign, which the Red Cross launched in 2014. Since then, the Red Cross and its partners have made 368,000 households safer through smoke alarm installation.

“Having those smoke alarms was a blessing… we probably would have burned to death.” Crystal Parkinson, a home fire survivor thanks to a smoke alarm installed by Red Cross volunteers

Already the smoke alarms have saved 258 lives in the country. In the Minnesota Region, the Red Cross and partners have made 3,283 homes safer through installation of nearly 10,000 free smoke alarms. To further this effort, the Red Cross is asking people in the Minnesota Region to support Sound the Alarm home fire safety events this fall.

“This million-alarm milestone will focus the nation on the importance of having working smoke alarms in homes.” Phil Hansen, CEO of the American Red Cross Minnesota Region

Installation events will happen in 7 locations, including Minneapolis, St. Paul, Melrose, Goodhue, Rochester and McLeod County in Minnesota, and in Superior, Wisconsin. People can volunteer to install free smoke alarms in local communities. They also can raise money, or make a donation to support Sound the Alarm. Learn more today. Watch the new Sound the Alarm video and then visit soundthealarm.org/mn.

Story by Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross. Minnesota fire statistics provided by Minnesota State Fire Marshal

Top reason to get involved in Red Cross Home Fire Campaign

rco_blog_img_Phil_and_Bea
Phil Hansen with Bea, 90, at her home in St. Cloud, Minnesota.

Story and photo by Kaylee Beevers/American Red Cross Intern

On April 23, Phil Hansen, the senior executive for the American Red Cross Minnesota Region, had the opportunity to participate in Home Fire Campaign activities in St. Cloud. His experience was mostly what he expected: teams made up of Red Cross volunteers and St. Cloud firefighters installed smoke alarms. But this was his first time actually doing installation outreach in homes. “I was really surprised by the number of homes that had inadequate smoke alarms or didn’t have any at all. It was great for us to come in and help make these installations for people who needed it most.” The reason why Phil made the trip to St. Cloud is because he truly believes in what these installations are doing: saving lives. As of April 2016, Red Cross installed smoke alarms have saved more than 90 lives across the country. For Phil, the best part about making home visits was meeting gracious people and seeing their faces shine with thankfulness after sharing with them a lifesaving gift. “For the future, we plan to see this program grow throughout the country due to the number of lives saved.” One challenge, he says, is the number of volunteers and partners currently participating. “We have great groups going out to serve their communities, but we need more.” And the top reason to get involved: “It’s a great reward knowing you’ve impacted and changed lives within your community.”

Learn more about the American Red Cross Home Fire Campaign.