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  • Writer's pictureNEIA Red Cross

Volunteers Sound the Alarm in Cedar Rapids

Volunteers ready to make homes safer

Last weekend, over 100 Red Cross volunteers installed 316 free smoke alarms in the Taylor and Czech Village neighborhoods of Cedar Rapids as part of a Sound the Alarm smoke alarms installation event.

Sound the Alarm events are part of the Red Cross National Home Fire Campaign. Most of us don’t realize we have just two minutes to escape a home fire – which is the nation’s most frequent disaster. Sound the Alarm events target neighborhoods at risk for home fires, seeking to make homes safer and raise community awareness about the importance of working smoke alarms and fire escape plans. Community partnerships are critical to the success of Sound the Alarm events. The Cedar Rapids Fire Department, the Mexican Consulate and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints were among the organizations installing smoke alarms in Cedar Rapids.

Volunteers from the Mexican Consulate, Jessica Gutierrez, Community Engagement and Partnerships Manager, Josh Murray, Red Cross Regional Communications Director and Jill Orton, Regional CEO

Some area residents made appointments, but many of the alarms installed were the result of volunteers going block by block, knocking on doors.

Rich and Julie Stephens

Julie and Rich Stephens were first-time volunteers participating in the Sound the Alarm event.

“The people we talked to have been very grateful,” said Julie Stephens. “It’s also great to see that some of the residents we talked to already have smoke alarms, already have plans.”

If a resident wasn’t home, volunteers left a door hanger detailing the importance of working smoke alarms and how residents can reach out to the Red Cross.

Stephens said, “Hopefully people seeing us out today are thinking about when they test their own alarms and the location of the alarms in their own households.”

One of the homes canvassed was Randy Estes’ home.

“I’m glad you are here,” Estes told the volunteers as they installed three alarms in his house. He had smoke alarms, but they were no longer operational. Smoke alarms 10 years old or older should be replaced.

Randy Estes watches as volunteers install a smoke alarm

Estes knows the value of working smoke alarms. In 2016, he lost everything when a fire destroyed his apartment building. He was asleep when the fire started in a neighboring apartment. “The smoke alarms woke me up,” Estes said. “Smoke quicky covered the floor and overtook the apartment and the entire building.”

Estes counted more than 20 fire trucks that responded to the five-alarm fire. Along with the firefighters on scene, Red Cross volunteers answered the call to help the apartment residents.

“They were there while they were still putting out the fire,” Estes said. “They helped me find a place to go and helped me get mediations refilled. I was thankful they were there, just as I am thankful to have the Red Cross here today.”

Home fires claim seven lives every day in the U.S. Having working smoke alarms, like Estes did, can cut the risk of death in half. Thanks to the volunteers who spent a few hours canvassing on the sunny Saturday, 125 Cedar Rapids homes were made safer.

Stephens said, “This is the first time that I’ve done this event, but it won’t be my last.”

Click here to learn more about the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign and how you can make your home safer.

To see more photos from the event, click here.

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