Families safer in Plainview after smoke alarm installation

Story and photos by Richard Underdahl-Peirce, Red Cross Volunteer

The American Red Cross and the Plainview Fire Department in Minnesota worked together to install more than 300 smoke alarms on September 19, 2015. Photo credit: Richard Underdahl-Peirce/American Red Cross.
The American Red Cross and the Plainview Fire Department worked together to install more than 300 smoke alarms on September 19, 2015.

On a crisp and sunny Saturday morning, thirty-eight volunteers spread out across Plainview, Minnesota, to install more than 300 smoke alarms in family homes. On the previous Saturday, volunteers had canvassed around 400 homes in the community to identify where new fire detectors should be added or old ones replaced. Now, on September 19, 2015, firefighters, community and American Red Cross volunteers went in teams of three to five to install the new fire alarms and to give home safety materials concerning home fire prevention and escape planning as part of the national Red Cross Home Fire Campaign.

Jake and Bobbie Sievers, and their son (r), survived a house fire in Plainview, MN, in 2014. Photo credit: Richard Underdahl-Peirce/American Red Cross.
On hand for the Home Fire Campaign, Jake and Bobbie Sievers, and their son (r), survived a house fire in Plainview, MN, in 2014.

As the volunteers gathered at the Plainview Fire Department, the Sievers family was there to greet and thank them for the Red Cross help they received following a home fire disaster. A year ago Bobbie and Jake, and their young son, escaped from a fire that damaged the front of their house and up into the rafters. Red Cross volunteers responded, providing food and clothing for humanitarian relief after the disaster. Finally, last December, they moved back home with much appreciation for the assistance they had received from local American Red Cross volunteers. The Sievers family was a concrete reminder to the volunteers of the importance of what they were doing this day.

Red Cross volunteer Donny Schreibo installs a smoke alarm in Plainview, MN, on September 19, 2015.
Red Cross volunteer Donny Schreibo installs a smoke alarm during the Home Fire Campaign in Plainview, MN, on September 19, 2015.

Volunteers came from Plainview and neighboring communities. Some, like Bev Holzheu, from Zumbrota, also had helped in the pre-canvassing in Lake City, where home safety materials and smoke alarms were given out by Red Cross volunteers. Others, like Michael Burgdorf, were long-time residents of Plainview and fire department volunteers as well.

Residents receiving the smoke alarms ranged from young parents to senior citizens. Sarah Hassig, a mother with young children, had three new smoke alarms installed in the home where they have lived for ten years. James Haley, a twenty year home owner and proud grandparent, also had three new smoke alarms installed. His three dogs delighted in being petted by the visitors – one of the side benefits of being a Red Cross Home Fire Campaign volunteer!

Homeowner Sarah Hassig received Red Cross home fire safety materials and also had 3 smoke alarms installed during the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign outreach in Plainview, MN, on September 19, 2015. Photo credit: Richard Underdahl-Peirce.
Sarah Hassig received home fire safety materials and had 3 smoke alarms installed during the Home Fire Campaign in Plainview, MN, on September 19, 2015.

The morning passed quickly, and the volunteers enjoyed rolls provided by the local Kwik Trip, plus water and pop on their return to the fire department. But most of all they left with the thanks of dozens of residents, and the satisfaction of improving the safety of the homes of so many men, women and children.

Super awesome: an additional 143 smoke alarms were installed on Sunday and during the following week! To learn more about the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign, click hereTo get involved, contact your local Red Cross

In Photos: Red Cross responds to Brainerd Lakes windstorm

Red Cross disaster relief workers have been on-the-ground in the Brainerd Lakes, Minnesota, area since a severe windstorm struck on July 12, 2015. Red Cross support currently includes providing water, ice and relief supplies to families and clean-up crews, and assessing damage of neighborhoods. The Red Cross continues to coordinate its relief efforts with local and regional partners that are responding to the disaster.

The Red Cross, along with the Salvation Army and the local sheriff department, set up a relief station at Timberwood Church, just South of Nisswa. Red Cross support includes assessing damage of neighborhoods, providing water and relief supplies to affected families and others on-the-ground cleaning up, and coordinating with local and regional relief partners on the response efforts.
The American Red Cross, along with the Salvation Army and the local sheriff department, distributed water, ice, and other relief supplies from a shared field station at Timberwood Church, south of Nisswa, Minn., July 15, 2015. Photo credit: Vivian Engen/American Red Cross.
The Red Cross provided water, ice and relief supplies at the relief station. Like many Red Cross volunteers, Gary Larson and Ken Vertin spent the day loading cases of water into vehicles.
Red Cross volunteers Gary Larson (l) and Ken Vertin (r) spent the day in Nisswa, Minn., loading cases of water into local residents’ vehicles on, July 15, 2015. Photo credit: Vivian Engen/American Red Cross.
 Red Cross volunteer Connie Barsness carried bottled water to the car of a local resident who was still without running water. The power is expected to return to the area in the next few days, but until then, local residents will continue to rely on alternative water sources.
Red Cross volunteer Connie Barsness carried bottled water to the car of a local resident who has been without running water since the storm on Sunday. The power is expected to return to the area in the next few days, but until then, local residents will continue to rely on alternative water sources, July 15, 2015. Photo credit: Vivian Engen/American Red Cross.
 Two Red Cross Emergency Response Vehicles (ERVs) are canvassing the hardest hit areas and bringing aid to those without power and cut-off from other resources by downed lines and trees.
Two Red Cross Emergency Response Vehicles (ERVs) are canvassing the hardest hit areas and bringing aid to those without power and cut-off from other resources by downed lines and trees, Gull Lake Dam Road, July 15, 2015. Photo credit: Vivian Engen/American Red Cross.
The storm that ravaged the Brainerd Lakes area is being compared to a stage one hurricane. Debris littered the street, at times making it difficult for the ERV to get through.
The storm that ravaged the Brainerd Lakes area on Sunday, July 12, 2015, is being compared to a stage one hurricane by local officials. Debris littered the street, at times making it difficult for the Red Cross Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV) to get through to affected areas, Gull Lake area, July 15, 2015. Photo credit: Vivian Engen/American Red Cross.
Red Cross volunteer Rick Campion distributes cold water to local residents Lloyd Baakkonen and Ronald Hines from the ERV.  “We heard your horn and came running,” said Baakkonen, who despite having a tree through his roof had a huge smile on his face. “There’s nothing better than cold water.”
Red Cross volunteer Rick Campion (l) distributed cold water to local residents Ronald Hines (c) and Lloyd Baakkonen (r) from a Red Cross Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV). “We heard your horn and came running,” said Baakkonen, who, despite having a tree through his roof, had a huge smile on his face. “There’s nothing better than cold water.” July 15, 2015. Photo credit: Lanet Hane/American Red Cross.
Hines then emphasized the importance of being prepared. “I had a generator in the basement that I’d never used it before, but figured it would come in handy if something bad were to happen,” he said. “I was right.” For more information on being prepared for different types of emergencies, click here.
Red Cross volunteers Rick Campion (l) and Vivian Engen (c) spoke with Ronald Hines (r), who was cleaning up following the windstorm. “I had a generator in the basement that I’d never used before, but figured it would come in handy if something bad were to happen,” Hines said. “I was right.” July 15, 2015. Photo credit: Lanet Hane/American Red Cross.
Many homes were hit hard by the storm. Amidst uprooted trees and debris, this family told the ERV crew that a tree went through their roof and their entire home will be torn down before the weekend is over because the damage was so extensive.
Many homes in the Brainerd Lakes area were hit hard by the storm on July 12, 2015. Amidst uprooted trees and debris, one family told Red Cross volunteers that a tree went through their roof. Their entire home will be torn down because the damage was so extensive. July 15, 2015. Photo credit: Vivian Engen/American Red Cross.
To date, the Red Cross has distributed thousands of bottles of water and hundreds of pounds of ice to Brainerd Lakes area residents and work crews cleaning up in hot and humid conditions following the windstorm. July 15, 2015. Photo credit: Vivian Engen/American Red Cross.
To date, the Red Cross has distributed thousands of bottles of water and hundreds of pounds of ice to Brainerd Lakes area residents and work crews cleaning up in hot and humid conditions following the windstorm. July 15, 2015. Photo credit: Vivian Engen/American Red Cross.
Red Cross volunteer Rick Campion walked through an storm affected neighborhood  in the Brainerd Lakes area on July 15, 2015. Photo credit: Vivian Engen/American Red Cross.
Red Cross volunteer Rick Campion walked through an storm affected neighborhood in the Brainerd Lakes area on July 15, 2015. Photo credit: Vivian Engen/American Red Cross.

What You Can Do: Download today the Red Cross Emergency App for real time access to weather alerts, preparedness information, safety tips and shelter locations. The Emergency App provides expert advice on what to do during and after, tornadoes, wildfires and other disasters. The app provides lifesaving information on emergency first aid for various situations such as what to do for heart attacks, heat-related emergencies and includes water safety tips. Pre-loaded content ensures that guidance from Red Cross experts is available anytime, anywhere – even without mobile connectivity.