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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Volunteers visit homes in Fort Collins most at risk for home fire losses

By Melody Storgaard
On October 18, volunteers from the American Red Cross, Poudre Fire Authority and Hope Worldwide went door-to-door in a Fort Collins neighborhood surrounding Putnam Elementary School in an effort to save lives. The group of volunteers were targeting 139 homes that were selected due to higher risk of loss caused by home fires. Their goal: to provide education and resources to help prevent those home fires in the first place and save lives and reduce property loss in the event of a fire.

The effort is part of a new, nationwide campaign by the American Red Cross to achieve a 25% decrease in fatalities caused by home fires. In Colorado, volunteers are going door-to-door in the highest-risk neighborhoods, asking to test smoke alarms, providing replacement batteries, installing smoke alarms and providing safety tips and preventative information.

Before heading out for the day, the Fort Collins volunteers got a brief training detailing the campaign’s procedures, specifics about smoke alarms being used that day, and important information about the carbon monoxide detectors that Poudre Fire Authority was providing. Everyone gathered their supplies and off they went into the neighborhood to go door-to-door.

When homeowners welcomed the volunteers into their home, the volunteers tested the fire alarms and checked that they had been correctly placed in the homes. When needed, the volunteers replaced batteries or the entire smoke alarm. They also talked to homeowners about being prepared for home fires -- covering the importance of having an escape plan, communication plan, and a meet-up point.

 In one of the homes visited on Saturday, volunteers found that the home had smoke alarms, but the alarms were not working. The volunteers removed the “old” alarms and replaced them with new ones, then tested the new alarms to make sure they worked. The volunteers noticed that the date on one of the non-functioning alarms was 2014!

Yes, you read that right! The smoke alarm had been installed this year. The alarm was not working even though it had been recently installed.

“This is a good example of why you need to always test smoke alarms,” said Susan Ferrari from Poudre Fire Authority. “You never know when one has a problem.”

The Red Cross recommends testing your smoke alarms once a month by pressing the “test” button. If you can’t reach the button, try using the end of a broom stick. Having smoke alarms and knowing that they work could save your life – in fact, the risk of dying in a home fire is cut in half in homes with working smoke alarms, according to The National Fire Protection Association.

The outreach campaign reached more than just the homes near Putnam Elementary – as they delivered messaging and supplies during the campaign, the volunteers found themselves talking about the smoke alarms in their own homes. They discussed when (and sometimes if) their own smoke alarms had been checked – and then started to make plans to replace the batteries or update the alarms in their own homes.

The Home Fire Preparedness Campaign launched on Oct. 11 and will continue over the next five years as the Red Cross and its partners reach out to communities all over Colorado, including additional neighborhoods in Northern Colorado.

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