1 minute readHome Fire
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Lifesaving Smoke Alarm Installations: An MLK Day Canvassing Story

Jenny Baragary is a senior officer with Development Opportunities at National Headquarters in Washington D.C. 

My cooking has set off a smoke alarm in more than a few instances. While it may have seemed like an annoyance as I frantically waved a towel by the smoke alarm to stop the beeping, it did provide some reassurance that it would work if a real fire broke out in my apartment. However, after taking part in a smoke alarm installation canvassing event last week, I now know that periodically burning toast is not an effective way to check my smoke alarm.

The canvassing event was set up as part of the Home Fire Preparedness Campaign, which aims to reduce fire-related deaths and injuries over the next five years. A major aspect of the campaign is going door-to-door in neighborhoods that are vulnerable to home fires to do two primary things:

  1. Install smoke alarms or replace smoke alarm batteries
  2. Provide residents with fire prevention tips.

I was very excited to see the campaign in action as I joined about 25 other volunteers at the Arlington, Virginia fire station on Martin Luther King Day of Service to receive training and hit the streets armed with new smoke alarms, batteries, fire escape plans and fire prevention materials.

L - Marleny Chavez. M - Camila Chavez. R - James Huddleston v2

Our group of 6 volunteers arrived at our assigned neighborhood and began knocking on doors to explain that we were canvassing the neighborhood to check smoke alarms. At first this was a little intimidating, but most residents were friendly. Once they heard about what we were doing, they were more than happy to let us into their homes.

I was shocked at the number of people who didn’t have a working smoke alarm. In many cases, all we needed to do was change the batteries in the alarm. In other cases, we removed the nonfunctioning alarm and replaced it with a new alarm. In either case, it took just a few minutes to provide the family with a lifesaving tool.

As the afternoon went on and word spread across the neighborhood, residents asked us to visit their neighbors to ensure their smoke alarms were working too! In some cases, people actually met us at the door before we could even knock. In a matter of hours, we canvassed the entire neighborhood, installing several smoke alarms, replacing even more batteries and potentially saving lives.

L - Peter McDonnen. M - Emily Jorgensen. R - Sarah Bergin v2

Canvassing events are happening throughout the nation so there are still plenty opportunities to take part!  Learn more about the Home Fire Preparedness Campaign and find out how you can help at redcross.org.