by Melissa LaScaleia
This April and May, the American Red Cross is once again running their national Sound the Alarm campaign. The annual event focusses on home fire safety and prevention techniques to mitigate the occurrence and devastation of home fires. Each Red Cross region around the country runs their own campaign for their area, and every year, a different city and county is selected in which to execute the campaign.
“Based on statistics from local fire departments on the number and locations of home fires they’ve seen in the past, they can help us identify which areas of the state where a campaign like this, focused on education and assistance, would be really beneficial to the community,” says Ben Williamson, Regional Communications Director for American Red Cross, Palmetto SC region.
The campaign was launched in 2014 in response to the number of home fires the Red Cross saw, occurring regularly, across the country.
Red Cross partnered with local fire departments, and volunteers would canvas the neighborhoods of the selected city, installing smoke alarms for people who didn’t have any, testing current smoke alarms, and replacing batteries. They would also go over home safety protocol with families, and help them build an escape plan in the event of a fire.
“Every family should be able to have everyone out of their house in two minutes or less,” says Ben. “All the statistics show if there’s a fire, that’s how long you have to get out before you’re trapped inside.”
Last year’s event was canceled due to Covid, but this year, it’s returning. In April and May, Red Cross will utilize the services of dozens of volunteers, board members, and potentially other community organizations, that will work in coordination with local fire departments across the state to host a virtual state-wide event to do two things: check families’ smoke alarms, and develop a home fire safety plan. Red Cross and the local fire department recommend that every family have working smoke alarms in every room of their home.
“Volunteers will reach out to families, providing guidance and instruction on how to test, replace, or install smoke alarms themselves; or how to get them repaired if necessary; and to help them create a home-fire escape plan,” Ben says. “They’ll also provide guidance on how to teach children— making sure everyone knows what to do in the event of a fire.
“What usually makes headlines are big disasters,” he adds. “But home fires are by far the local disaster that we respond to the most— on average, six per day across the state. Home fires claim significantly more lives each year than any other natural disaster nationwide. We hear all the time people say: ‘Oh, it will never happen to me. It will never be my house, never be my family. That won’t happen.’ They say that until that does happen. So we’re trying to make families prepared and take it seriously.”
Since the inception of the campaign in 2014, Red Cross has been credited with saving 78 lives through this work across South Carolina— either through people who have had fires in their homes but had functioning alarms, or a plan that allowed them to escape.
Since 2014, across the state, Red Cross, in conjunction with local fire departments, has installed more than 85,000 smoke alarms in homes across the state.
“Either through smoke alarm installations or creating home fire safety plans, we’ve made more than 26,000 homes across the state safer,” Ben adds.
Before Covid, anyone could reach out to Red Cross, from any city or county, at any point, and request that they come and install smoke alarms in their home. Whether you didn’t have them, or didn’t know how to install them, Red Cross was there to help.
“We have temporarily suspended this service,” Ben says. “But we hope in the very near future to reinstate that service again, as we continue to see more and more people get vaccinated.”
You can help Red Cross with their Sound the Alarm campaign and help support their mission of home safety in two ways, with a donation of money, or time.
Visit www.redcross.org today to donate funds which will help provide essential materials like batteries and smoke alarms. You can also volunteer your time to help spread their message.