Citizens Encouraged to ‘Sound The Alarm’ to Save Lives
WHEELING — The American Red Cross, in partnership with the Wheeling and Ohio County fire departments, will be installing free smoke alarms to any resident of the county who is in need of them.
On Tuesday, officials with the American Red Cross, the City of Wheeling and local fire departments gathered to announced that Wheeling had been selected as a Signature City for the American Red Cross Sound the Alarm Campaign, which aims at providing and installing free smoke detectors in U.S. communities.
A total of 133 communities across the nation were chosen to be part of the 2020 Sound the Alarm Campaign. Wheeling was one of only three cities in the State of West Virginia to be selected, along with Morgantown and Huntington.
“Early detection, obviously–and it’s something we talk about all the time–is key to survival in fires today,” Wheeling Fire Chief Larry Helms said. “With the types of materials we put in our homes, fire spreads much more quickly than it did in the past. Statistically, you’ve got two minutes from the time a fire starts to exit safely. Early detection is the only way that’s going to be possible. This program shows we’re making every effort to make sure people have early detection.”
According to statistics, someone dies in a fire every seven minutes, and 36 people are injured every day because of structure fires in the United States, Helms noted.
“Programs like this are going to help us be more safe,” Helm said, praising all of the partnering agencies for their support in this effort. “Our goal is a lofty goal, but with the support of all the surrounding departments, I’d like to see us get about 700 units installed in the county in the coming weeks.”
Helms said the installation phase should begin in mid-April.
“We appreciate the efforts the Red Cross is putting forth to help save lives during home fires,” the chief said. “Smoke alarms are lifesavers. Those who have working detectors in their homes or businesses are twice as likely to survive a fire.”
The Sound the Alarm campaign was first established in 2014. According to the Red Cross, roughly 700 lives have been saved since then, thanks to more than 7 million smoke alarms installed in 850,000 homes across the United States as part of the campaign.
“This is a very exciting program,” said Wheeling Mayor Glenn Elliott. “We’re absolutely thrilled to be one of the three cities in the state to be named a Signature City for this project. We’re looking forward to working with all of the departments on this. If you can catch a fire before it has taken over a building, and what you can do in terms of saving lives and saving a building, makes all the difference in the world.”
Lou Vargo, director of the Wheeling-Ohio County Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency, commended the partnership between the first responders and the municipal and corporate agencies that bring programs like Sound the Alarm to the area. Vargo introduced several representatives of fire departments from throughout Ohio County who helped to kick off the campaign Tuesday at the Wheeling Fire Department. Members of city council, the Rev. Paul Schaffer of the Upper Ohio Valley Ministerial Alliance and Michelle Duez, regional philanthropy officer for the American Red Cross, were among the dignitaries on hand for the announcement.
“As of now, our special phone line will begin accepting messages to schedule appointments for our April installation days,” said Sharon Kesselring, regional executive director of the Red Cross. “Our main day will be April 18, but we’ll also have some additional install days depending on our corporate and community partner volunteers are available.”
To schedule an appointment for installation of new fire alarms, call 304-232-0712 before April 18. In-home safety and evacuation information will also be available for those wishing to have a free smoke alarm installed in their residence. Those interested will be asked to leave their name, address and phone number when calling the install hotline, and a representative will return the call to make an appointment time for installation.
Kesselring said corporate and community partners help make programs like the Sound the Alarm Campaign possible.
“This is an expensive venture, to say the least,” she said. “We’re still looking for more financial support, but especially, we’re looking for more volunteers for their support.”
The American Red Cross is able to implement this and many other programs in communities throughout the nation thanks to the work of volunteers.
Alan Hinderliter of Wheeling is a volunteer partner with the American Red Cross who has already installed hundreds of smoke alarms in communities beyond Ohio County as part of the program and has logged 3,200 hours of service in his first year as a volunteer.
“So far since 2014 in West Virginia as a result of the smoke detectors we’ve installed, 29 people have gotten out of their houses alive,” Hinderliter said. “We need volunteers. If anyone is interested in volunteering, the easiest way to do it is to go online to www.soundthealarm.org. We also need volunteers for so many other things we do, too. It really does make a difference in people’s lives.”
The Wheeling Fire Department’s Bureau of Fire Prevention reminded the public to test their smoke alarms monthly and replace batteries during the “fall back” and “spring forward” time changes.
Smoke detectors being installed as part of the Sound the Alarm program will last for 10 years, officials noted, stressing that anyone who has had a smoke alarm in their home for more than 10 years should replace it.
For more information about the Sound the Alarm Campaign, visit www.soundthealarm.org/westvirginia or to schedule an installation appointment, call 304-232-0712.