On average, we have just two minutes to escape a home fire. That shocking statistic is why the American Red Cross has made it their mission to prepare families to act quickly through our Home Fire Campaign. This November, Red Cross volunteers from the Western North Carolina chapter partnered with members of Centro Unido Latino Americano in Marion to install free smoke detectors in the homes of predominantly Spanish-speaking families.
“The home fire prevention campaign in Marion was a huge success,” said Tucker Shealy, disaster program specialist. “We installed 39 alarms, made 15 homes safer and impacted 52 people. In WNC, a home fire is the number one disaster. Campaigns like this are the best way to educate people and provide them with the equipment they need to keep their families safe.”
Carlos Lopez, youth development coordinator for the Latino organization, said that often because of a language barrier, many Spanish-speaking people in Marion aren’t informed about the dangers of living in homes without smoke detectors. “One of our families had a home fire, and they lost most everything,” he said. “Unfortunately, they didn’t have any smoke detectors.
“Many folks, especially in low-income families, don’t have smoke detectors because they aren’t educated in fire safety or don’t understand the risk in not having them. So when Tucker came up with the idea for the Red Cross to partner with our organization, we thought it was a wonderful idea.” To get the word out, Centro Unido Latino Americano used social media and had its outreach coordinator make phone calls to set up appointments.
Eight Red Cross volunteers from Asheville, Sylva and Marion along with three members of Centro Unido split into four teams to put in the smoke detectors and help develop a fire escape plan for each family.
“I feel much safer now that we have smoke detectors,” said Faviola Luera, whose two inoperable smoke detectors were replaced with new ones, each with a ten-year battery life. “I am very grateful that the Red Cross did this for me and my family.”
After volunteers installed two new smoke detectors in his home, Terry Rose said that now he could sleep easier at night, knowing that he’ll be alerted if a fire erupts. “It’s a blessing to have free smoke alarms installed,” he said. “I thank the Red Cross.”
Shealy, who was recently promoted to regional preparedness manager for the North Carolina region, added, “This event with Centro Unido Latino Americano, a great community partner, was an awesome opportunity for us to work together to expand the reach of our programs and services.”