Ending Home Fires with One Million Free Smoke Alarms and Counting

By Los Angeles Region CEO, Jarrett Barrios

According to CalFire, approximately two-thirds of residential fire deaths occur in homes without working smoke alarms. Since most fatal fires occur at night, smoke alarms provide an early warning. Working smoke alarms increase the chance of surviving a home fire by 50 percent.  It’s undeniable: smoke alarms save lives.

For three years, the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign has taken volunteers into over 50 different LA County communities and led us to install almost 20,000 smoke alarms for this simple, life-saving reason.  While there, we’ve also had the chance to educate thousands in home fire safety planning.  We were thrilled, this past spring, to announce the launch of the next phase of our Home Fire Campaign with Sound the Alarm, a five-community effort over five successive weekends in Los Angeles, with thousands of volunteers installing alarms.

Well, as they say, even the best laid plans can go awry.  For us, Sound the Alarm was shaping up to be a thrilling success until a guy named Harvey, and two gals named Irma and Maria, pulled us onto a few other things.  Joking aside, during the last ten weeks, the American Red Cross has launched wide-ranging relief efforts to help people devastated by these three historic back-to-back hurricanes. And, most recently, we began supporting thousands of people affected by the deadliest week of wildfires in California history. For the California Wildfires alone, along with our community and government partners, we have provided more than 27,900 overnight stays in emergency shelters and served more than 181,400 meals and snacks for the individuals and families affected.

Because of this, and reasonably so, our September and October Sound the Alarm events had to be postponed until April and May of 2018. But, this doesn’t mean our work to end home fires was put on hold. In fact, despite our resources being stretched thin across multiple national disaster relief operations—and with nearly 300 of our Los Angeles Region volunteers deployed out of the area—we were still able to be part of an ongoing national effort that reached its millionth-alarm-installed milestone on November 2, 2017.

I am thrilled to announce that not only was our one-millionth free smoke alarm installed, but we have documented that 285 lives across the U.S. have been saved to-date as a result of our campaign to end home fires!

Since 2014, Red Cross volunteers across the country have been teaming up with local fire departments and community partners to reduce home fire tragedies in vulnerable communities. And personally, I’d like to thank every person and organization who has supported our Home Fire Campaign here in Los Angeles.  What makes me even more proud is that with so many homes now safer from home fires, our efforts will push forward, and continue to save even more lives!

We could not have accomplished any of this alone. In fact, across all Red Cross regions nationally, it was a total team effort, with the support of 4,400 partner organizations that helped us visit homes to install free smoke alarms, assist families with developing fire escape plans and provide home fire safety education to members of many, many communities.

And, there is more! Since 2014, and nation-wide, the campaign has also reached nearly 895,000 children through youth preparedness programs, helped to create more than 340,000 home fire escape plans, and replaced more than 51,000 smoke alarm batteries.

As I mentioned above, this spring, the Red Cross will Sound the Alarm through a nation-wide series of home fire safety and smoke alarm installation events between April 28 and May 13. Working with volunteers and partner organizations, we plan to install 100,000 free smoke alarms across more than 100 major cities nation-wide. To accomplish this, we will need your help!

Join us by registering to volunteer to install smoke alarms in the Los Angeles area, making a financial contribution or by taking the steps necessary to help protect your own family from a home fire. Together, we will not only Sound the Alarm about fire safety, we will continue to save lives! Visit http://www.redcross.org/soundthealarm for more information on how you can help.

Jarrett Barrios is the Chief Executive Officer at the American Red Cross Los Angeles Region. But, above all, Jarrett Barrios is a humanitarian with more than 20 years of experience helping people in need throughout the United States and Cuba.

To learn more about Jarrett Barrios or the America Red Cross Los Angeles Region, visit RedCrossLA.org.

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