(CHICAGO, IL) – Christine White opened her door to American Red Cross volunteers on Chicago’s South Side on a Saturday morning to install smoke alarms in her Roseland home.
“I’ve never needed your services (for disasters), thank God. Hopefully, I never will,” she said as volunteers installed smoke alarms and made a safety plan for her family.
A few blocks south on 108th Street, Shavett Lovemore told volunteers, “We haven’t experienced anything personal, but you still hear the stories.”
The Roseland community on Chicago’s South Side has one of the highest numbers of fire fatalities in Northern Illinois. That’s why armed with ladders and drills volunteers went door-to-door to install more than 400 smoke alarms in a single-day on Sept. 19 to help families be safe.
The effort is part of the nationwide Red Cross Home Fire Campaign, a multi-year effort to reduce the number of home fire deaths and injuries by 25 percent. Working alongside fire departments and community groups, the Red Cross and its partners will install 5,500 smoke alarms in Northern Illinois communities, like Roseland, over the next several months.
For senior citizens and people with physical disabilities, having the Red Cross install a smoke alarm in their home is crucial in those hard to reach places.
“That’s something I can’t do. Thank you,” said Roseland resident Ed Bishop, when Red Cross volunteer Goeffrey Fishwick installed the device on the ceiling where smoke would rise to set it off if a fire would spark.
It’s also smart to install smoke alarms in bedrooms and hallways to sleeping areas. For Glenda Johnson, a stroke survivor, who needs a wheelchair to move, the Red Cross installed two smoke alarms in her home. “It’s good that you’re coming around,” she said.
For every smoke alarm installed in Roseland, volunteers like Cam Anton, also mapped out how families can safely exit their home in less than two minutes during a fire.
At Erma Washington’s home, where Cam’s team installed two smoke alarms, he walked her though her home pointing out possible exit areas through windows, and the front and side doors.
“So right there you’ve got three escape routes, and that really gives you a good game plan should an event actually occur. Hopefully not, but if it does, you’ve got a good game plan,” said Cam.
The American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois responds to 3 to 4 home fires every day, providing food, shelter, clothing and emotional support.
Home fires tend to increase in the fall and winter, which is why Regional Disaster Officer Harley Jones said the Red Cross is making a big push now to be prepared for the colder months ahead.
“Home fires are tragic and devastating to those who experience them,” said Jones. “Our aim is to arm as many families as possible with these safety measures to help prevent another tragedy.”
TWO MINUTES TO ESCAPE It is estimated that you may have only two minutes to get out after a fire starts in your home. As part of the campaign, the Red Cross is also asking every household in America to join us in taking two simple steps that can save lives: checking their existing smoke alarms and practicing fire drills at home. Every family should develop a fire escape plan, and practice it.
GET INVOLVED People can visit redcross.org to find out more about how to protect themselves and their loved ones and homes from fire or contact their local Red Cross to find out about smoke alarm installation events in their community. They can also help by volunteering their time or making a donation today to Red Cross Disaster Relief by visiting redcross.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS or texting the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Donations to Disaster Relief will be used to prepare for, respond to, and help people recover from disasters big and small. We respond to nearly 70,000 other disasters every year, from home fires to hurricanes and more. Learn more about how Disaster Relief donations have helped people affected by previous disasters including home fires.
American Red Cross Public Affairs Volunteers Tyler Bieschke, Eleanor Lyon and Alex Sobczak contributed to this story
Photos by American Red Cross Volunteers Danny Diaz and Bill Biederman
For more photos of the Roseland Smoke Alarm Installation Event: https://www.flickr.com/photos/chicagoredcross/albums/72157658419790759