2 minute readHome Fire
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Sound the Alarm: Six Days Installing Smoke Alarms Along the Kuskokwim River

The American Red Cross of Alaska, The Kuskokwim Corporation, and Donlin Gold joined forces recently to distribute smoke alarms throughout villages along the middle region of the Kuskokwim River.

The effort was part of Sound the Alarm, an initiative within the the Red Cross’s nationwide Home Fire Campaign that aims to install free smoke alarms and provide home fire safety education to at-risk communities.

Three volunteers walking to distribute smoke alarms in Lower Kalskag.
From left: Red Cross volunteer Suzanne Eldridge, Donlin Gold intern Patrick Hale II, and Megan Leary of The Kuskokwim Corporation distribute smoke alarms in Lower Kalskag.

The installation team traveled in all sorts of weather to deliver the alarms, from rainstorms to rainbows, and in all sorts of vehicles, from boats to Kubotas.

The results were fantastic. “We installed 480 smoke alarms, from Stony River down to Lower Kalskag,” said Suzanne Eldridge, a Red Cross volunteer.

The six-day trip began with a six-hour journey up the Kuskokwim, from Aniak to Stony River. After a night spent in the local school and a hearty breakfast, the team was ready to begin their work.

A Red Cross volunteer installking a smoke alarm in Stony River.
American Red Cross of Alaska volunteer Suzanne Eldridge installs a smoke alarm in Stony River.

Over the next four days, the team made their way back downriver, stopping in villages including Sleetmute, Crooked Creek, Chuathbaluk, and Upper and Lower Kalskag.

With each stop, the team’s stacks of smoke alarms became smaller and homes along the Kuskokwim grew safer.

A Red Cross intern carries boxes of smoke alarms to their next location.
Donlin Gold intern Patrick Hale II of Hooper Bay carries boxes of smoke alarms.

According to Celia Jackson, Red Cross of Alaska Senior Disaster Program Manager, the smoke alarm installation process is quite simple.

“It’s a really easy process…you just put the plate on [the ceiling] with two screws and then you click the smoke alarm into place,” she said, adding that these alarms will last for ten years without the need for battery replacement.

A little boy digging through a box of smoke alarms in his house.
One of the smallest residents of Lower Kalskag investigates a box of smoke alarms.

In addition to installing alarms, team members spoke to families about having an emergency escape plan in place.

On average, seven people in the United States are killed in home fires everyday and another 36 are injured. Nationwide, the American Red Cross responds to almost 64,000 disasters each year, the vast majority of which are home fires.

The Home Fire Campaign works to reduce these numbers. In the last year, the Red Cross of Alaska has worked with partners and volunteers to install 2,309 smoke alarms in 707 households statewide through efforts like this one along the Kuskokwim River.

If you would like to partner with the Red Cross of Alaska to install smoke alarms in your community, or if you are interested in having a smoke alarm installed in your home free of charge, please visit redcross.org/alaska or call your local Red Cross of Alaska office.

Thank you to Donlin Gold and The Kuskokwim Corporation for making this outreach possible!