When fire broke out at Susan and Michael Brown’s Greenville, OH, home on December 28, 2022, they were able to escape due to working smoke alarms and quick action by the couple. The FREE smoke alarms were installed by American Red Cross volunteers in September of 2018. At that time, volunteers Rick Hyatt and William Bunger also provided the Browns with home fire safety information, which included emphasis on leaving the home within two minutes when there’s a fire.
Mrs. Brown requested the FREE smoke alarm installation after speaking with Red Cross volunteers at the Darke County Fair. Mr. Brown joked that his wife “needs to stop at every booth at the fair”—now he’s glad she did! Volunteers from the Miami Valley Ohio Chapter were handing out information at the fair about the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign.
The Home Fire Campaign is a nationwide Red Cross effort to reduce home fire deaths through lifesaving preparedness and fire safety education, the creation of home escape plans, and the installation of free smoke alarms. Of the approximately 60,000 disasters the Red Cross responds to across the country every year, more than 90 percent are home fires. The Browns are one of more than 36,000 families in Central & Southern Ohio to receive free smoke alarm installation since the program’s inception in 2014.
The fire started in the Brown’s home at 3:30 a.m. while the couple was sleeping. Mr. Brown was recovering from foot surgery with his service dogs with him in the bedroom. His wife was sleeping in another room with the couple’s pet dogs. Mrs. Brown heard the smoke alarms wail and immediately woke up her husband who was in deep sleep. The Browns were able to go down the staircase, which wasn’t simple because of Mr. Brown’s mobility issues, and managed to escape from the blaze in under two minutes with their five dogs.
The volunteers who installed the smoke alarms in 2018 were the same volunteers who responded to help the Browns following the 2022 fire. “The lady recognized me,” William Bunger said. “I know you, you’re the one who installed our smoke alarms!” The Browns were provided with emergency financial assistance and case work to help start their recovery. “I’ve been a supporter of the Red Cross for a long time,” Mr. Brown said. “But I never imagined I would need them.”
Volunteers Rick Hyatt and William Bunger where recently honored at a Greenville City Council meeting for their installation of the Brown’s smoke alarms and the volunteer service they provide the community.