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Helping Make NJ Communities Safer During MLK Day of Service

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To honor the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Red Cross volunteers helped communities in need.

In celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the American Red Cross New Jersey Region joined with community partners for a day of service in Berkeley Township and Newark. 

To help build safer communities, volunteers from the Red Cross, Hope Worldwide and Habitat for Humanity went door-to-door in neighborhoods in Berkeley Township educating families about fire safety and installing free smoke alarms in homes that needed them as part of the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign. Volunteers canvassed approximately 175 homes with fire safety information and installed more than 50 smoke alarms. 

Fire safety efforts also took place in Newark as the Red Cross teamed up with Hope Worldwide to support the Camden Street School’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service. Joined by volunteers from Groome Industries, the Red Cross and Hope Worldwide canvassed neighborhoods surrounding the school with fire safety information and installed 35 smoke alarms. 

Meanwhile at Camden Street School, the Newark Fire Department and Red Cross taught students and their families what they should do in the event of a home fire. 


“In a typical year, home fires kill more people than all other natural disasters combined in the United States,” said Eileen Painter, volunteer manager, American Red Cross New Jersey Region. “It is important that children are empowered with the fire safety information they need to help keep them safe and calm should they experience a home fire.”

Painter talked with students about what they can do to help keep themselves safe during a home fire and the importance of calling 9-1-1.  

Students practiced rolling off of a cot, crawling as they would do during a fire to avoid smoke and using the back of their hand to feel doors to determine if they were safe to open. If a door was not safe to open, children learned how to use a blanket to block the gap under the door to prevent smoke from entering the room. 

Firefighter Padillia showed students how the Newark Fire Department would rescue them if they were unable to get out of their home during a fire. In his firefighting gear, Padillia picked up five-year-old Sainaiyah and demonstrated how firefighters would carry people to safety. 

Since the launch of the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign in October 2014, the Red Cross and its local partners have installed more than 8,000 free smoke alarms across New Jersey and helped more than 4,000 families create a family fire escape plan.

The Red Cross is urging everyone to take two simple steps that can save lives: check their existing smoke alarms and practice fire drills at home.

PRACTICE YOUR FIRE ESCAPE PLAN Fire experts agree that when a fire breaks out families have as little as two minutes to escape from their burning home. Regularly practiced fire escape plans ensure all members of your household know what to do should a fire occur. Make sure everyone is able to exit the home in less than two minutes. If you don’t have a fire escape plan, develop one today.

CHECK YOUR SMOKE ALARMS All residences should have properly installed, functioning smoke alarms. Check the batteries in your smoke alarms monthly and replace any that aren’t operational immediately. At minimum, smoke alarms should be installed on every level of the home, inside bedrooms and outside sleeping areas.

To learn more about fire safety and access free tools and resources, visit

JOIN US! It is through the time and care of ordinary people that extraordinary things can be accomplished. The Red Cross is always looking for people with various backgrounds, talents and skill levels and is inviting members of the community to become volunteers.

There are many ways people can get involved, including participating in the Red Cross Home Fire Preparedness Campaign. To learn more about Red Cross volunteer opportunities in New Jersey or to register as a volunteer, visit