Red Cross program offering free smoke detectors aims to save lives

Posted at 5:34 PM, Jun 13, 2015
and last updated 2015-06-13 23:46:54-04

LAYTON, Utah – Volunteers with the Utah Chapter of the American Red Cross were installing free smoke detectors in people’s homes in Layton on Saturday. It’s part of a nationwide effort to decrease the amount of house fires that break out in the United States each year.

“In a home fire, on average, you only have two minutes to escape,” said Red Cross Spokesperson Rich Woodruff.

The American Red Cross reports having a smoke alarm installed in your home can cut your chances of dying in a house fire in half.

“A lot of fires break out in the middle of the night, as we know,” Woodruff said. “And so the smoke alarm will alert the residents, and if they’ve got a good enough evacuation plan, they can get out.”

Volunteers with the Utah Red Cross will install smoke alarms in people’s homes for free or replace the batteries in existing alarms.

The American Red Cross reports an estimated 70,000 house fires in the U.S. each year.

“People don’t stop and think about that,” Woodruff said. “So, we find there’s a lot of fires where no smoke alarms were there. By contrast, those that have smoke alarms, they have saved lives.”

Officials say at least seven people die in house fires every day and dozens are injured.

“We’ve had several times where they thought that had working smoke alarms and it turned out they weren’t working,” said Laura Lewis, who is a Red Cross disaster program manager.

The new Red Cross initiative--launched in the fall--is called the “Home Fire Campaign.”

“We’ve been able to track the results, and we know of a confirmed 13 lives that have been saved directly from this campaign, so that’s pretty exciting,” Woodruff said.

Layton resident Karen Smith had new smoke detectors installed in her home. She says she’s grateful for the volunteers.

“I just want to say ‘Thank you,’ to the Red Cross for doing this for us,” she said. “Because there’s a lot of people that just can’t afford them. And I’m one of them, so I want to tell them ‘Thank you so much.’”

Volunteers say it’s fulfilling to work with a campaign that’s saving lives.

“The home we installed two in didn’t have smoke detectors, and they had small kids,” said volunteer Nicole Felt. “And they seemed genuinely grateful that we were installing these at no cost to them.”

Woodruff says residents who don’t have smoke detectors in their homes can contact the Utah Red Cross and they will come to your home and install one free of charge. Visit their website for more information.