No homeowners can afford to go without smoke detectors. That’s why the American Red Cross’s Home Fire program is making its way to Conimicut with the help of the Warwick Fire Department.
Home Fire is a national program that works with local fire departments and partners (partners this year include St. Vincent De Paul, Warwick fire recruits, and Home Depot) to install smoke detectors in local communities free of charge. During last year’s program in Warwick, volunteers installed over 145 detectors in a day. The door hangers they left with neighbors got more appointments to roll in, so they installed 100 more over the next few weeks throughout Warwick.
This year to goal is to install 300 to 400 smoke detectors.
On October 27, the Red Cross and Warwick Fire Department will be stationed at the Shields Post on West Shore Road for the event. Volunteer canvassers will go to homes in the neighborhood and do a 20-minute workshop of sorts on fire safety with families. Volunteers will install smoke detectors and help to develop a fire escape plan. Each home gets three detectors and a fridge magnet detailing their escape plan. The 10-year lithium batteries are secure in the detectors and can’t be pulled out – people often pull batteries out and forget to put them back in if the detector goes off inappropriately, which is an issue when a real fire happens. Detectors that will be installed through this initiative will have a reset button instead for the “burnt toast” cases.
There is no time like the present to have this done, said Red Cross Senior Director of Emergency Services Liz McDonald.
“When a fire happens, it’s too late. You only have two minutes to get out,” she said.
And it’s not just the smoke detectors that are important, said Warwick Fire Chief James McLaughlin.
“The escape plan is just as important as getting a detector. A lot of the time, people don’t talk about that at all,” he said.
But it seems Home Fire is successful in getting people to take fire safety seriously. McDonald said the program has already saved 105 lives across the country. The goal is to reduce the number of deaths from fires by 25 percent over five years.
“You would be amazed at how many houses we go in where there are no smoke detectors or the detector is off the wall,” McDonald said. She estimates that at least one out of every five or six homes in Rhode Island, smoke detectors are not working or are missing. In many cases, she said, parents buy smoke detectors when their children are young and never replace them.
“If your kids are in college and you still have the same smoke detectors you had when they were babies, it’s time to change them,” McDonald said.
McLaughlin and McDonald said volunteers are eager. So far, 50 people are signed up to volunteer, and they’re hoping to install 300-400 detectors this year. Appointments can be made between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. on October 27 by calling 877-287-3327 and choosing option 1. Appointments can also be made online at www.redcross.org/ri/schedule-a-visit. Volunteers also do installations on other days throughout the month, so availabilities may be flexible.