By Tyler Sigmon, Communications Volunteer
Over 15 American Red Cross volunteers and staff from various chapters across the Greater Chesapeake Region gathered in Crisfield, Md. recently (June 26) with a goal of installing new smoke alarms in each of the 330 units under the supervision of the Crisfield Housing Authority.
The Sound the Alarm effort was part of the Red Cross’ continuing Home Fire Campaign, a national fire safety education and smoke detector installation initiative that set an ambitious goal of installing 100,000 smoke alarms in 100 at-risk communities in all 50 states earlier this year.
An estimated 2,500 man-hours went into the planning and execution of the Crisfield event. There is much more to coordinating a Sound the Alarm event than showing up in a neighborhood with smoke alarms and volunteers to install them.
“Planning for this effort began two weeks ago, to the day,” explained Shawn Felder, Direct Services Regional Program Lead volunteer for the Greater Chesapeake Region.
The planning included coordination with the housing authority to select a date for installations, notifying residents of installation logistics, coordination of volunteers and transporting necessary supplies to the community to support the program.
“Installation events are challenging,” commented Felder who also noted various obstacles were gracefully overcome to make for a tremendously successful event that he’s proud of.
Felder added the effort had no chance of success without the active commitment of the roughly 15 dedicated volunteers that assisted in neighborhood canvassing, fire safety education, smoke alarm installations and logistics.
One such volunteer, Dr. Henry Brooks, a retired University of Maryland-Eastern Shore 4-H administrator, spent an entire day volunteering despite his plans to drive to Tallahassee, Fla. the following day to attend a retirement celebration and visit family. “I really had planned to be packing and getting ready to leave tomorrow,” Brooks said. “But when Shawn [Felder] asked me, I said I just have to help.”
James Townsend, an Air Force veteran who survived two tours in Vietnam and a five-year deployment in Germany, has resided in the Somers Cove community for nearly 15 years.
Townsend was thrilled to see the Red Cross descend on his community in an effort to make it safer. “I’m just glad folks like you are concerned and are doing this to help people out,” he said. “Live right and try to do right. Then good things will come around.”
Leonard Horsey, a 16-year resident of the community who had a single outdated smoke alarm in his unit, was also pleased when the American Red Cross arrived to begin installing smoke alarms in his two-bedroom home.
“Yes indeedy [sic], they should have already been here in these projects,” he said describing the timing of the installations. Just a few months prior to the fire safety education event, Horsey recalled evacuating his residence when smoke bellowed from an adjoining unit.
The education portion of the program seemed to resonate with Horsey, an elderly man who relies on a medical scooter to remain ambulatory. “If I hear that alarm, I’m gone,” he said, “you don’t need to worry about me.”