CEDAR RAPIDS — Volunteers for the American Red Cross hope to install 1,000 smoke detectors in area homes Saturday.
The organization is focusing on some Cedar Rapids, Marion and Hiawatha neighborhoods as part of its annual Sound the Alarm event. Harvey Johnson, president of Humanitarian Service for the Red Cross, also will be in town to help the effort.
More than 200 volunteers with the Red Cross and partner organization will be working in the Lindale, Manor, Marion Village, Five Seasons, Oakhill Jackson, Cedar Hills and Prairie Oaks neighborhoods and all of Hiawatha. They’ll be installing free smoke detectors and creating fire escape plans.
Caslon Hatch, regional communications officer for the Red Cross, said the campaign started in response to a 2012 Lake City fire that killed a family of four in a home without working smoke detectors. Since then, the American Red Cross has installed more than 13,000 smoke detectors in Iowa homes.
The majority of the disasters the Red Cross responds to are home fires, Hatch said. So far this year, six Iowans have died in home fires where smoke detectors weren’t present, according to information from Iowa’s State Fire Marshal. In 2018, 15 people in Iowa died in fires where smoke detectors were either not present or not working.
“When I see a big death like that, it’s like ‘Geez, I wonder were we in that community? Were they home that day? Is there something we could’ve done that could’ve impacted that family?’” Johnson said in an interview with The Gazette. “You don’t have to look very far and see parts of the community that this makes a difference between life and death in some cases.”
Additionally, two in five respondents to an American Red Cross survey said they believe they’re more likely to win the lottery than lose their homes in a house fire. And one in 10 adults cited cost as a reason for not purchasing a smoke detector.
But on average, seven people die daily and 36 people are injured each day in home fires nationwide, according to data from the Red Cross.
“People just don’t recognize home fires occur that often,” Johnson said. “It’s disproportionately in at-risk communities, and so people that don’t get a lot of visibility. But it’s still a major problem across the United States, so that’s where we thought at the Red Cross we could really make a difference. And I think that we are.”
Nationally, the Sound the Alarm campaign aims to install 100,000 smoke detectors across 100 major cities in just 17 days.
Residents who don’t receive smoke alarms during Saturday’s event can go to getasmokealarm.org to have a smoke detector installed by the American Red Cross or one of its partner organizations year-round.
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