Making a 5,000-Residence Community Safer from Fires,
One Home at a Time
The community of Barefoot Bay in Brevard County is a safer and more proactive one thanks to a partnership between the Red Cross Space Coast Chapter, the community HOA and neighborhood watch members. Barefoot Bay is the second largest manufactured home community in the country with approximately 5,000 residences and just under 10,000 people.
On the first Saturday of every month, Red Cross volunteers and community members meet to install free smoke alarms and provide home fire safety education for neighborhood residents. After 19 months of work, 1,419 homes and families are better prepared for home fires.
Mike McElrath, Red Cross disaster program manager, brought the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign to Barefoot Bay when he saw a need for greater fire safety in the area. “Mobile homes are always at a higher risk for fires,” he said. “Many of these homes haven’t changed their smoke alarm since their home was built 20 or 30 years ago.”
The first event on June 1, 2017 finished with 120 alarms installed in 50 homes. Word got out about the free installation project and the demand grew tremendously, prompting McElrath to create an online sign-up page and monthly schedule. On January 5, 2019, a significant milestone was reached with the installation of the 4,000th smoke alarm (4,029 to be exact)!
Kathy Planisek, a 23-year resident of Barefoot Bay, leads the neighborhood watch and is determined that every home in her community receives the benefits of this life saving program. “Barefoot Bay looks forward to ‘Smoke Alarm Saturday’ every month,” she said. “We are so grateful the Red Cross has teamed up with Barefoot Bay. We have the best volunteers anyone can ask for! We’re making Barefoot Bay safer, one home at a time!”
In addition to the smoke alarms themselves, Red Cross volunteers make sure each household is as prepared as possible by helping each family create a home fire escape plan.
Barefoot Bay has three different Facebook groups to communicate with its residents, all of which have reminders of upcoming events. But now, the fire safety conversation is happening on a daily basis – even without reminders.
“It’s really brought fire safety to the front of people’s minds,” said McElrath. “We don’t just install smoke alarms. We talk to people about fire safety in their homes.”
McElrath is particularly proud of the teamwork that is making a difference in people’s lives, but is quick to add there is much more work to be done. Since the home fire safety program launched in the community, numerous home fires have been reported in homes that did not have a Red Cross smoke alarm. So, the march toward the next milestone of 5,000 alarms continues, the first Saturday of next month. To volunteer for the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign, please, visit redcross.org/volunteer.