Free life-saving smoke alarms a phone call away

Free life-saving smoke alarms a phone call away

Image Credit: Dave Mast

How much would you pay to protect your family from a ravaging fire?

How about getting life-saving help for free?

From July 2020 to June 30, 2021, American Red Cross has installed more than 3,200 smoke alarms through the Home Fire Campaign.

The incredible thing is they’ve installed every one of them for free, and they would love to see that number grow.

The Home Fire Campaign began as a way of helping homeowners combat the destructive nature of fire by installing free smoke detectors in homes. In Holmes County, Dave Crilow has picked up the mantle of serving as a Red Cross representative through the Wayne County chapter of Red Cross.

According to recent statistics, 60% of all fire deaths occur in homes that have no working smoke alarms, and the risk of perishing in a home fire is cut in half when a working smoke alarm is present.

Crilow wants families in Holmes County to have every opportunity to avoid becoming a statistic.

“In 2014 Red Cross created the Home Fire Campaign, and since then we’ve helped save nearly 1,000 lives across Holmes County,” Crilow said. “Critical work is made possible with the support of our Red Cross partners, who have helped install more than 2 million smoke alarms nationwide.”

During that span, 1,844 homes have been made safer through educational visits that have included the installations of smoke detectors.

As the Red Cross representative in Holmes County, Crilow sees himself as more of a conduit for the program, noting homeowners around the county can contact their local fire and EMS department, whose members will come into a home and install the smoke detectors at no cost.

Crilow said he enjoys serving as Holmes County’s Red Cross representative, and he is passionate about promoting the smoke alarm program.

“I enjoy working with our local fire and EMS teams, doing the installations of the smoke alarms free of charge in our community’s homes,” Crilow said. “They care passionately about people, which is why they do what they do.”

The Red Cross smoke alarms have a 10-year life expectancy and are operated on a nonreplaceable battery. Once the smoke alarm’s use has expired, new ones can be installed at no cost, and fire and EMS personnel will install the appropriate number of alarms per household.

“The fire personnel have been taught where each smoke alarm will be the most effective,” Crilow said.

He said while Red Cross will send in members to install alarms, Holmes County has never had to make that request because its fire and EMS teams have been so willing to do the job.

Once the smoke alarms are installed, homeowners should follow some simple instructions to ensure they are operable. Crilow advises they test each alarm monthly by pressing the small button located on the face. He also said families should design and practice a home escape plan should a fire occur including a gathering spot outside that is safely removed from the home.

Should families already have older smoke alarms that require batteries, they should change the batteries semi-annually. Crilow suggested they change the batteries at each time change in the fall and spring. Older detectors will “chirp” when the battery is low.

“If a smoke detector is more than 10 years old, it should be replaced,” Crilow said. “And one of the worst-case scenarios with older alarms is when they start chirping because of the low battery and people just pull the battery out to stop the chirping and never replace them. Your smoke alarm isn’t going to save anyone when it isn’t working properly.”

Crilow said smoke alarms should be installed in each bedroom, at key entry areas and on each floor level.

ARC said the importance of smoke alarms in bedrooms can’t be stressed enough because sleeping children often will not wake up until the smoke affects them, and most fires occur during evening and early morning hours, meaning families are often sleeping. Smoke initially works its way toward the ceiling and then moves downward, meaning every second of advance notice increases the chances of surviving a fire.

“Smoke alarms that wake people up give them a much better chance of survival during a fire as compared to waking up when they actually sense the smoke,” Crilow said. “Alarms give them 5 or 6 feet of clean air to escape, compared to having no alarm, where the smoke has much more time to navigate to the level of someone sleeping.”

In addition to the 10-year alarms, Red Cross also offers bed-shaker units that aid those hard of hearing by vibrating the bed when the alarm sounds.

Winter is an ideal time to have smoke alarms installed because fires are more likely to take place in colder moths where people are using fireplaces, wood burners and heating units more frequently.

Contact a local fire department about getting a new 10-year-battery smoke alarm installed free of charge.

“American Red Cross and the Home Fire Campaign are working together with local fire and EMS services to save lives,” Crilow said. “This is an amazing, life-saving program that benefits all homeowners, and it’s absolutely free.”

Be smart, play it safe and give your family a much better chance of surviving a fire by contacting your local fire department and requesting the Red Cross smoke detectors.

The safety that comes with working smoke detectors will only cost a family a free phone call, free smoke detectors and free installation.