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Red Cross volunteers Sound the Alarm and install 696 free smoke alarms

Volunteers, partners and other Red Cross supporters are turning compassion into action.

SOUTH PORTLAND – American Red Cross volunteers installed nearly 700 free smoke alarms in Greater Portland on Saturday as part of Sound the Alarm, the organization’s national signature home fire safety event to reduce home fire deaths.  

Teams installed 696 free smoke alarms, checked batteries in existing alarms and replaced them if needed, helped residents create escape plans and provided additional home fire safety education. In all, they made 172 homes in Portland, South Portland and Westbrook safer. More than 120 volunteers signed up for the event. 

“It’s inspiring to see so many people stepping up in the spirit of service. Home by home, community by community, across the country, volunteers, partners and other Red Cross supporters are turning compassion into action. Our friends, families and neighbors will be safer because of it,” said Patricia Murtagh, CEO of the Maine Region of the American Red Cross.

Saturday’s event was part of a nationwide push to install 100,000 free smoke alarms in more than 100 cities. Home fires pose a grave threat to communities and claim more lives in the United States than all other natural disasters combined. 

“Seven people die every day in home fires,” said State Fire Marshal Joe Thomas. “The people who came out understand that that figure is unacceptable and that we must work together to prevent these tragedies. I’m proud to be part of this movement to save lives.” 

The Maine event kicked off at Eastpoint Christian Church in South Portland, where volunteers were trained before heading out to their assigned neighborhoods: East Deering in Portland, Ferry Village and the Willard Square area in South Portland and the Hamlet off Saco Street in Westbrook. Volunteers came from the Portland, South Portland and Westbrook fire departments, from Spectrum and other partner organizations and from the greater community. 

“We know the number one thing that save lives is early detection through properly placed working smoke alarms,” said Captain John Brennan of the Portland Fire Department. “We are excited to partner with the Red Cross in this extremely important initiative to reduce the risk in our community.”

Working smoke alarms reduce the risk of death by half. Sixty percent of home fire deaths take place in homes where the smoke alarms aren’t functioning or where there are no smoke alarms at all. 

“Westbrook has been fortunate in not having any fatal fires in recent years. We can improve the chances of keeping it that way through proven safety measures,” said Westbrook Fire Chief Andrew Turcotte. “Smoke alarms do save lives. That’s why we are working with the Red Cross on Sound the Alarm this weekend and beyond to make our community safer.”

Sound the Alarm is taking place at a time with most people are both overconfident and underprepared when it comes to home fire safety. A survey for the Red Cross indicates many Americans have a false sense of security about their ability to escape a home fire but haven’t taken measure to make themselves safer. 

“The South Portland Fire Department is proud to team up with the American Red Cross Sound the Alarm campaign which will help to install over 100,000 smoke alarms nationally,” said South Portland Fire Chief James Wilson. “Their commitment to this program and to increasing fire safety awareness will save lives, not only in Maine, but throughout the country.”

Sound the Alarm is part of the broader Home Fire Campaign launched by the Red Cross in 2014. The effort has since installed more than 1.2 million free smoke alarms, including more than 12,000 in Maine. At least 416 lives, including those of eight Mainers, have been saved thanks to this work. 

The Red Cross and its partners install free smoke alarms and provide home fire safety education year round. For more information, visit SoundTheAlarm.org/Maine.