Video: Every Minute Matters: Smoke Alarm Saves South Dakota Man

One cold January night, a smoke alarm in Gene Welsch’s home in Sioux Falls, South Dakota went off. He sat up to discover smoke was already level with his head. He escaped from his house just moments before it was engulfed in flames.

“If I didn’t get out, I’d have been dead in about three minutes,” said Welsch.

Thankfully, not long before that tragic night, Welsch was watching a local news program when he learned about the American Red Cross Home Fire Campaign. As part of the campaign in his community, Red Cross staff and the local fire department go door-to-door providing home fire safety education and installing smoke alarms in homes that need them free of charge.

After the program, Welsch called the local fire department – His smoke alarms had been in his home for about 30 years. That newly installed smoke alarms saved Welsch’s life.

“It’s a good, wonderful program,” said Welsch about the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign. “If it saves one person, it’s very very worthwhile.”

Red Cross Home Fire Campaign

Every eight minutes the Red Cross responds to a home fire or other disaster. To help combat the threat of home fires, the Red Cross announced a national campaign in October 2014 to reduce deaths and injuries from home fires by as much as 25 percent over the next five years. The Red Cross has already prepared nearly 37,000 households and installed more than 66,000 smoke alarms.

You can help people affected by disasters like home fires and countless other crises by making a donation to support the American Red Cross. Your gift enables the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters big and small. Visit, call 1-800-RED CROSS or contact your local chapter to make a donation.