ANCHORAGE (Sept. 1, 2018) Eleven villages and nearly 500 homes received smoke alarms, air quality tests and fire escape plans thanks to the American Red Cross of Alaska, the Kuskokwim Corporation (TKC) and Donlin Gold. Between August 6 and 11, a group led by the local Red Cross traveled the Middle Kuskokwim River to install the alarms.
Sound the Alarm is part of the national American Red Cross Home Fire Campaign, which strives to install free smoke alarms in at-risk communities across the country. In 2018 over 120,000 alarms have been installed nationwide.
In the TKC region, the project was funded by the Home Fire Campaign grant from TKC along with support from Donlin Gold. Free smoke alarms were installed in all 11 TKC villages. Beginning August 6 in Stony River and concluding August 11 in Aniak, after traveling all the way to Lower Kalskag, TKC, Red Cross and Donlin Gold staff worked for hours each day installing the alarms.
In each village, the group installed multiple alarms for each home that requested to be a part of the project. The team would install one smoke alarm per floor of the home and one in each bedroom. Installing the smoke alarm is a simple process says Celia Jackson, Red Cross of Alaska Senior Disaster Program Manager.
“It’s a really easy process - you just put the plate on [the ceiling] with two screws and then you click the smoke alarm into place,” she said, adding that these alarms will last for ten years without the need for battery replacement.
The alarms were not the team’s only objective, they also provided fire prevention and safety information. This includes assisting families as they create an escape plan in case of an emergency.
Every day seven people die from home fires in America and another 36 are injured. Often those lost do not have functioning smoke alarms in their home. In 2014 the Red Cross launched their Home Fire Campaign. Since the launch they have seen 464 lives saved, nearly 1.5 million smoke alarms installed and almost 600,000 homes made safer. It is more than just numbers; the over 1 million youth taught about fire safety through the program is a key success.
The Red Cross of Alaska has installed 2,309 alarms in 707 homes in the last year. The effort was made possible by volunteers, local sponsorship and support, and resources provided by the Home Fire Campaign with the Red Cross. The local Red Cross chapter partnered with TKC and Donlin Gold to bring the campaign to the region. Red Cross facilitated the project, with planning and logistics provided by TKC. Donlin Gold sponsored the campaign and helped by providing skilled laborers.
The Excel Alaska students and former drill helpers from the Donlin Gold drilling project in 2017 served to assist the Red Cross in completing the project. Jaden Duny from Marshal and Patrick Hale III from Hooper Bay participated in the project.
“Seeing two students from the region complete Excel Alaska, work on our summer drill program and be able to invest in our community, was great,” said Danny Twitchell Donlin Gold Community Relations Coordinator.
The program was a great success. “We installed 480 smoke alarms, from Stony River down to Lower Kalskag,” said Suzanne Eldridge, a Red Cross volunteer.
Hundreds of homes are safer and hundreds of children have a plan for how to react if a disaster strikes. Seeing families come together and prepare for the future is a great gift. As the team moved along the river the team’s stacks of smoke alarms became smaller and homes along the Kuskokwim grew safer.