On Saturday, June 7, strong storms didn’t stop Red Cross volunteers from educating East St. Louis residents about the importance of having working smoke alarms in the home – as well as a plan to get out in case of emergency.
Nearly 20 Red Cross volunteers and staff, along with representatives of the local Urban League Young Professionals Auxiliary, took to the streets of East St. Louis. They went door-to-door to encourage residents to not only have smoke alarms but to ensure that they work, too.
To view photos of the event, click here.
“We chose East St. Louis because a majority of the fires that the Southern Illinois Branch office responds to are there,” said Jori Bartolacci, an AmeriCorps NPRC member at the American Red Cross Greater St. Louis Region’s Southern Illinois branch office. “We chose a specific neighborhood in East St. Louis where residents experienced 11 home fires in the months of January and February alone.”
Among the fast facts the Red Cross shared with residents: nearly two-thirds of all fire-related fatalities occur in homes that don’t have working smoke alarms. Therefore, everyone should make sure smoke alarms work by testing the batteries once a month, changing the batteries at least once a year, and replacing smoke alarms every ten years, even if they still work.
In addition to speaking about smoke alarms, the canvassers left a small packet of information at each home and also spoke about what to do if the alarm sounds.
“The event went really well,” said Bartolacci. “We were able to reach over 200 homes with life-saving preparedness materials and had many meaningful conversations about fire safety with the East St. Louis residents. We wanted them to not only start thinking about what their families would do if a home fire happened, but we also wanted them to take an action that day to be more prepared. Many residents checked their smoke detectors to see if they were working and made an evacuation plan in case a fire occurred. We received a welcome response from the East St. Louis residents.”
The event began with an orientation at the Clyde C. Jordan Center where event organizers, such as Bartolacci, informed volunteers of what to expect and the best practices of canvassing. Pastor Zachary Lee, an assistant to East St. Louis Mayor Alvin Parks, also addressed the canvassers.
The Greater St. Louis Region of the American Red Cross will organize several more canvassing events in the fall.