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Red Cross sounds the alarm about smoke detectors

by Adam Reider | March 5, 2023 at 4:03 a.m.
Josh Cobb/News Tribune photo: John Dungin briefs volunteers Saturday, March 4, 2023, before installing free smoke alarms. Members of the Red Cross traveled to Holts Summit to install free smoke alarms in some mobile homes.

The local chapter of the American Red Cross continued distributing and installing smoke alarms Saturday.

Volunteers installed smoke alarms in mobile homes in Holts Summit.

"I know as a Red Crosser that it's important to go to mobile homes. Tornadoes and fires seem to have a way of hitting them," volunteer Diane Sommer said.

Since 2014, the Sound The Alarm program of the American Red Cross has installed 3,951 fire alarms within 27 counties of North and Central Missouri at no charge to individuals who request the service. This past Saturday, four volunteers, two employees, and three fire fighters ventured to a mobile park home to set up, hopefully, "at least three alarms" in every home that was pre-screened, said Rebecca Gordon, the executive director of Central & Northern Missouri for the American Red Cross.

The volunteers come from all over the place.

"Ideally, people drive no further than an hour," John Matthews, a long-time Red Cross disaster relief volunteer, said.

He recently volunteered in California to run a shelter for flooding victims. Matthews said he appreciates volunteering for disasters, because he doesn't receive "pushback" from victims. Service provides are equally as grateful for the work.

"I drove an hour and a half," Rebecca Wilhouse, a resident of Belle, said. She said the trip was justified since, "...we see people with absolutely nothing."

Many of the service requesters are appreciative of the work performed and lives saved, volunteers said.

"There was one home we installed and a week later a fire occurred," John Dungin said.

Data showed that 6,397 people lived in the local homes in which the Red Cross has installed smoke detectors.

Members of the Holts Summit Fire Protection District participated in Saturday's event.

"We're excited... (it's) a great cause getting more people aware of fire safety," firefighter Chris Thompson said.

Thompson the "difference between legacy and modern fuel" illustrates the importance of fire safety awareness. Modern construction and furniture products burn faster than legacy products. Thompson finds education and fire prevention have become more important.

The goal is to "install alarms... educate... and record data," according to Dungin, the Disaster Program specialist of the Red Cross, which is important to note since "other programs don't do education. They just install and leave."

Every volunteer has to train before they partake in certain Red Cross events, said Matthews. For this event, they had to be prepared to share safety tip for residents. They offered information about fire plans before fires occur. Plans include preparing for situation such as ensuring there's a hammer to shatter a window for egress, or that no more than one adult is responsible for grabbing a child or pet and making sure there are at least two egress routes.

"We plan to have an egress (plan) that lasts no longer than two minutes," Dungin added.

While the Sound the Alarm program has saved over 1,900 lives nationally, within the Missouri and Northern Arkansas district, they have saved 60 lives. Dungin said volunteers request contact information from residents, so that when fires do occur in those addresses, they can check back with them to see if the smoke alarms -- which volunteers installed -- saved their lives, or at the least notified them of the fire.

"We truly are humanitarians first," Gordon said.

Print Headline: Red Cross sounds the alarm about smoke detectors


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