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Red Cross offers free smoke alarms during annual 'Sound the Alarm' initiative

Officials credit the program which offers free installation of smoke alarms for saving 2,100 lives in the U.S. since 2014.

The Red Cross kicks off its annual “Sound the Alarm” initiative Saturday. The week-long effort invites volunteers to help with the installation of free smoke alarms in homes around Northeast Ohio.

According to the Red Cross, the presence of working smoke alarms in a household can decrease the risk of death from a home fire by half, and it recommends that smoke alarms be checked every month.

Jim McIntyre, regional communications director at the Red Cross of Northern Ohio, said the campaign has had an impact on the communities it serves.

“Our home fire campaign is what the Red Cross established in 2014, and since then, it has resulted in more than 2,100 lives saved,” he said.

McIntyre said there are many fire safety tips that staff offer during these at-home visits, including creating an escape plan in case of a home fire.

“We urge them to create an area where they can meet safely outside the home and make sure that everybody got out safely,” McIntyre said. “If you’re in the moment and a fire does break out, you need to be automatic and know exactly what to do and where to go.”

Smoke alarm batteries can last up to ten years, he said, but checking them on a regular basis is key to ensuring that they are in working order in case of a fire.

“The batteries don’t need to be changed, but they still need to be tested because sometimes, these smoke alarms can fail,” McIntyre said. “If you have a smoke alarm that is older than ten years, it should be replaced.”

Those interested in volunteering can visit the Red Cross website and find a location. Anyone who needs a smoke alarm can call their local Red Cross to make a request.

McIntyre said he’s happy to be a part of a program that helps educate so many on the dangers of home fires and has led to the saving of so many lives.

“In the time I’ve been with the Red Cross, I find this to be the most rewarding program the Red Cross offers,” he said.

Janson McNair was an intern at Ideastream Public Media for the spring 2024 semester.