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Smoke Alarms Credited with Saving Four Lives in Fort Dodge

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“This is the second time we can document that lives were saved because of our efforts.”

A smoke alarm installed during an American Red Cross and Fort Dodge Fire Department Home Fire Campaign event is being credited with saving four lives. 

On December 20, 2016, smoke alarms alerted A’Shontae Shivers, her boyfriend Eric Chapman and her oldest child, Kaedon to a fire in their Fort Dodge, Iowa home. As a result, all, including an infant in Shivers' care, were able to escape the home safely. Shiver’s two younger children were at school at the time of the fire.

Shivers said when the smoke alarm sounded, they saw smoke pouring out the vents in their youngest child’s upstairs bedroom. The family quickly evacuated and called 9-1-1. 

On Saturday, October 24, 2015, volunteers with the Red Cross and the Fort Dodge Fire Department knocked on the family’s door and asked if they could check to make sure the home had working smoke alarms. 

While  firefighters replaced dead batteries in existing alarms and added two new smoke alarms, Red Cross volunteer Becky Naeve and volunteer and Walmart employee Tracy Haden talked to the family about making a fire escape plan. 

“We had already developed an escape plan,” Shivers said about her three children, Kaedon, Chancellor, 12 and Raeleigh, 11. “But, we went over it again with the Red Cross volunteer.” 

Fort Dodge Fire Chief Kent Hulett and Assistant Fire Chief Lenny Sanders said they are concerned about the lack of working smoke alarms in Fort Dodge homes and are working with the Red Cross to change that.

“These [projects] are life savers,” Chief Hulett said. “This is the second time we can document that lives were saved because of our efforts.” 

In January 2016, Jamie Robinson, Ed Derrig and their daughters Mackenzie and Abby, escaped a fire in their home thanks to smoke alarms installed by the fire department and Red Cross volunteers. 

Assistant Chief Sanders said his goal is to knock on every door in Fort Dodge. There are 8,000 residences and the team has knocked on the doors of about 1,600, so far. 

During the Home Fire Campaign event on October 24, 2015 and May 21, 2016, the teams were able to reach about 550 homes each day. Assistant Chief Sanders believes they could reach closer to 1,000 homes per day if they had more volunteer help and is interested in doing a larger event in the future.

“My fear is that we won’t get to all of the residences in time,” Sanders said. “There is a sense of urgency.”

Red Cross volunteer, Becky Naeve, enjoys visiting homes with the Home Fire Campaign. Naeve also serves as a Red Cross disaster responder and often meets with people after a fire. 

“Doing the fire calls is awesome,” Naeve said, “But, the smoke alarm installations just top it off.”

Naeve said she sees the benefit the program brings and feels a personal fulfillment getting involved.

“Sometimes people just forget to check the batteries and are so appreciative,” said Naeve. “It’s definitely a strong project.”

The Red Cross Home Fire Campaign, launched in October 2014, is a multi-year nationwide initiative to reduce deaths and injuries caused by home fires by 25 percent. Since the start of the campaign, the Red Cross and its partners have helped to save at least 159 lives and installed more than 619,000 smoke alarms in 8,400 cities and towns nationwide. The Iowa Region and its partners across the state have installed more than 7,900 smoke alarms in about 3,200 Iowa homes. 

WHAT CAN PEOPLE DO? The Red Cross is asking every household in America to join us in taking two simple steps that can help save lives - practicing fire drills at home and checking existing smoke alarms. In addition to preparing your home and family, volunteers are needed in many areas to help install smoke alarms in at-risk communities. People can contact their local Red Cross chapter to get involved.