The sun was shining and the autumn air was crisp as volunteers armed with buckets full of dual-sensor smoke alarms, long-life batteries, cordless drills and step ladders hit the streets. Their mission: make people’s homes a little safer.
On Saturday, October 12, 2013, approximately 500 volunteers from the American Red Cross, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and fire departments from across Iowa went door-to-door in Des Moines’ Highland Park neighborhood.
After receiving their game plans from the Des Moines Fire Department, volunteers set off in teams of three ready to make a difference. Sounds of smoke alarms going off were heard over and over throughout the neighborhoods.
Volunteers Claudia and Brad Schabel and teammate Terry Way installed five smoke alarms in one home. Fortunately, Claudia is fluent in Spanish as only a young boy in the home spoke English. While Claudia shared vital fire safety information, Brad installed new dual sensor smoke alarms in each bedroom, the living area and the basement. The home had no smoke alarms when the volunteers knocked on the door, when they left it had five new ones. As the team walked out the door, the boy promised to hold a fire drill with his family.
A few blocks away, Monica Friedman, chair of the Central Iowa Chapter of the Red Cross, husband Rob and daughter Lauren knocked on the door of the home of a mother and her triplet boys. The family had a hardwired system of smoke alarms, but was unsure how it worked. Rob Friedman installed new ten-year batteries in the hallway, the toddlers’ bedroom and playroom and installed a new smoke alarm in the living area. The boys’ mother was incredibly grateful, saying thank you dozens of times before the team exited her home.
Organizers said the one-day smoke alarm blitz was the largest the city had ever undertaken. Volunteers knocked on the doors of 2, 997 homes on Saturday, installing 2,183 new smoke alarms, replacing 342 batteries and checking 1,389 working smoke alarms. To say the project was a group effort would be an understatement. A committee made up of the Red Cross, the fire department, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Iowa Department of Public Safety, Polk County Emergency Management, Casey’s General Stores, Principal Financial Group and Nationwide Insurance planned the project for months.
When it was all said and done, thousands of homes were little bit safer because of the effort of hundreds of volunteers.