Despite steady rain and a chilly, 40 degree spring day, more than 350 volunteers went door-to-door in the Cedar Rapids, Iowa neighborhood of Wellington Heights, in the name of fire safety.
Armed with cordless drills and buckets full of new smoke alarms, volunteers from local organizations like the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teamed up with the American Red Cross and knocked on the doors of nearly 3,000 homes on Saturday, April 25, to make sure residents had working smoke alarms and plans to get out if their homes caught fire.
Wellington Heights’ resident Nancy Marmann had been eagerly waiting for volunteers to knock on her door.
“The first one [smoke alarm] they checked was very, very old and so they replaced it," Marmann said. “There wasn't one in the bedroom or downstairs so he replaced that,” she said.
A team of five volunteers checked all of the alarms in Marmann’s home and installed five new ones.
Michael White’s home did not have any working smoke alarms. He lives with six other people, including five children.
"I don’t have to worry about my kids or me being in danger," said White after volunteers installed smoke alarms. "I have five kids at home and you never know who's cooking what and who's doing what. We [didn't] have any, so this was a perfect thing."
Seven times a day someone in the United States dies in a home fire. Countless others suffer injuries. To combat these tragic statistics, the Red Cross has launched a nationwide campaign to reduce the number of deaths and injuries due to home fires by 25 percent over the next five years. The Home Fire Project is happening all over the country and involves Red Cross workers joining with local fire departments and community groups to visit neighborhoods at high risk for fires.
The Red Cross and Iowa State Fire Marshal’s office donated 4,000 smoke alarms for the Cedar Rapids project. Volunteers not only installed more than 700 of those alarms, but replaced nearly 150 batteries.
Volunteers found getting into homes to be a bit of challenge. Of the approximately 3,000 homes in the neighborhood, they were only allowed inside 339.
“Part of the challenge is just getting in and letting them know that we’re here, we’re safe and we’re going to do a good service for them,” said volunteer Benjamin Forsyth of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
But even with the challenges, it was a successful day for all involved.
Calen Campbell was one of more than two dozen AmeriCorps volunteers who pitched in. "[It’s] a special impact that not only affects you personally, but also the people that you help," he said.
Nancy Marmann said she felt safer right after the first new alarm went in the wall.
“In the back of your mind there's always the thought of, if there's a fire, will your alarm go off,” Marmann said. “These are 10 year guaranteed alarms; I mean they'll probably out live me.”