Seven times a day, someone in this country dies in a home fire. Home fires, in fact, kill more people in an average year than every other domestic natural disaster combined. It’s an unsettling fact, and the American Red Cross is looking to significantly change those numbers through a concerted effort to install free smoke alarms in any home around the nation, including those in the Ohio River Valley.
To date, more than 700,000 alarms have been installed nationally over the last two years and 150 lives have been saved, according to the Red Cross. And more alarms could installed and lives could potentially be saved locally, says Ohio River Valley Red Cross Community Executive Debbie Smith, if the organization could get more volunteer help.
“Installing smoke alarms has become a priority for this organization,” says Smith. “We’ve had a lot of success installing them throughout the region, but right now the demand for free smoke alarms is outrunning our capacity to install them. We are currently receiving more requests than we can install in a timely manner, and our list is growing.”
During the week of Feb. 13, the organization installed 121 smoke alarms across the region, and there remained 26 pending requests at week’s end. The week prior, they also exceeded 100 installations.
To meet the challenge, Smith has begun actively searching for volunteers to join the smoke alarm installation team. The teams consist of three people—and installer, an educator and a documenter—who install the free smoke alarms and deliver fire prevention information. The teams either travel to the homes of people who have made a request for free alarms, or they go to neighborhoods known to have high numbers of fires and begin knocking on doors.
Volunteering with a smoke alarm team is easy, says Smith. No experience is needed. Volunteers are trained prior to going out and additionally on the job. Anyone wishing to volunteer can sign up at redcross.org. Anyone wishing to have a free smoke alarm installed in their home can call the Portsmouth office at 740-354-3293.
“The Ohio River Valley Red Cross is celebrating its centennial this year,” says Smith. “A century ago, we were formed by asking those in the community to join hands. The need has not changed. More than ever, the Red Cross needs the help of the community to fulfill its mission, and is calling upon the citizens in the Ohio River Valley to lend their hands once again.”
The smoke alarms—as well as all disaster-related services provided by the Red Cross—are free. The Red Cross is not a governmental agency, though, so the costs to provide these services comes from donations provided by the generosity of the American public. Anyone wishing to make a donation to support families suffering as a result of disasters such as home fires or purchase life-saving items such as smoke alarms are encouraged to do so. To make a gift, go to