By Samantha Pudelski, American Red Cross Volunteer
October 25, 2019- Did you know that if a fire starts in your home, you might have as little as two minutes to escape? Something as simple as a smoke alarm can alert those inside of a fire in its early stages, providing critical time to vacate the home and call for help. Unfortunately, there are many who don’t have working smoke alarms, or don’t have enough devices within their home.
One American Red Cross volunteer, Barbara Buchwalter, experienced first-hand how powerful a simple device like a smoke alarm can be.
“I was given a business card at a senior event,” said Barbara. “We knew we didn’t have enough smoke alarms for the size of our home. A fireman came and installed several alarms. Within the same week, our stove caught fire and the smoke alarm went off. The fireman that installed the alarms also responded to the fire that afternoon. I believe my husband and I were saved, because we had our old alarms replaced.”
Lieutenant Joe Kiefer was the Wooster firefighter who provided the services that saved the lives of Barbara and her husband. He said that the smoke alarm not only saved lives that day, but it minimized the damage the fire caused. With the fast actions of the homeowners, Joe and his fellow firefighters were able to quickly respond and put out the fire before it spread to other areas of the home.
Joe was recently named Wooster firefighter of the year, and his work with the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign was mentioned as one of the reasons for his nomination.
The Buchwalters are among the 642 people whose lives have been saved after smoke alarms installed by the Red Cross and its partners alerted them to the danger in their homes. In Northeast Ohio, the Red Cross and its partners have installed over 42,000 smoke alarms through its Home Fire Campaign.
Smoke alarm installations are available to any community member through their local chapter of the Red Cross. Many fire departments, like the Wooster Fire Department partner with the Red Cross to install smoke alarms the Red Cross provides. Fifteen to 30 minutes is all it takes to install smoke alarms in a home. Joe said that it also provides the firefighters an opportunity to answer any questions the homeowners may have, and to point out any potential fire hazards within the home.
“It’s a great way to get [firefighters] face-to-face with their community members,” Joe said.
“It’s a simple thing people can do—there’s no reason not to have smoke alarms,” according to Joe. To learn more about how you can prepare your home in case of a fire, visit the Red Cross Home Fire Safety page.
Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer