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Smoke Alarm Success Makes 200 Homes Safer

Red Cross Oregon Home Fire Safety
“We truly made an impact on this family, who has already been touched by fire once.”

American Red Cross volunteers turned out in force on Saturday, April 25 to educate residents about home fire safety in Portland’s St. Johns neighborhood. With help from Portland Fire Bureau firefighters, teams canvassed nearly 1,000 homes in the 97023 ZIP code and installed 162 smoke alarms, a new one-day record for smoke alarm installations. Additionally, the teams helped families make personal evacuation plans based on disasters such as home fires and earthquakes.

Red Cross volunteer Mary Felice Crowe helped north Portland resident Kirsten Fowler and her four daughters, ages 5–10 years, draw up a fire escape plan, while two other volunteers installed three smoke alarms in a home that was not protected prior to the visit.

“This was a unique situation in that these young girls knew nothing about fire drills or fire safety,” said Mary Felice. “To make a lasting impression, I knew I needed to get the children involved, so we made a game of it. And once we finalized the plan, one of the girls posted it on the refrigerator.”

Red Cross board member, Julie Grandstaff, also joined the teams of volunteers. “One of the families we visited was Spanish speaking,” said Julie. We realized very quickly that we needed an interpreter. Luckily, the family’s eldest daughter, who is bilingual, was visiting. We were invited in and found no evidence the home had ever had a smoke alarm.” While the team was installing three smoke alarms, they found out that the family had experienced a kitchen fire recently. “It’s serendipitous that the daughter was visiting the day we were canvassing. She was instrumental in helping us to inform and educate her family about home fire preparedness,” says Julie. “We truly made an impact on this family, who has already been touched by fire once.”

Nearly 200 households in St. Johns were directly impacted by the work of the outreach event, according to Melinda Davis, American Red Cross preparedness and partnerships manager.

The next Home Fire Preparedness Campaign events are May 2 in Bend, Ore., ZIP code 97702 and Brookings, Ore., ZIP code 97415. For more information and a complete list of upcoming home fire outreach events, visit