Alerted to smoke in the early hours of February 14, 2017, Bradley Paradise managed to escape his burning home. And it was due to a smoke alarm installed by students from the American Red Cross Club of the University of New Hampshire (UNH), and the Home Fire Campaign.
Paradise said he woke at 3am to go to his kitchen. He wasn’t aware that the rear of his mobile home was on fire until the smoke alarms starting going off. Paradise exited the home, and yelled to neighbors to alert 911.
The home was completely destroyed.
But Paradise gives credit for his escape to the visit he received a short 10 months prior from the Red Cross Club members and their installation of smoke alarms in his home.
On April 23, 2016, UNH students Stephanie O’Kresik, Katie Hyson, and Alexandra Bourcy were canvassing the small neighborhood in which Paradise lived. Along with Red Cross volunteers Barbara Desjardens, Joan Donhauser and Tom O’Neil, they were going door to door asking people if they had working smoke alarms.
This canvassing is all part of the American Red Cross “Home Fire Campaign” that volunteers and partners are carrying out across the country. Each year, the Red Cross responds to nearly 66,000 disasters, the vast majority of which are home fires. So in 2014 the Red Cross and our partners mobilized the Home Fire Campaign to reduce fire-related deaths and injuries in the US by 25%.
Across New Hampshire and Vermont, over 4,000 smoke alarms have been installed so far. As of February of 2017, 159 lives across the country have been confirmed saved due to the efforts of this campaign.
The Home Fire Campaign offers new smoke alarms or replacement batteries for current smoke alarms for free to any resident who would like them. Volunteers will also sit briefly with the resident and make sure they have an emergency exit plan. The smoke alarms have a 10 year battery for years of early warning protection.
“This horrible fire has shown us the importance of this project,” said Frank Grima, American Red Cross Disaster Program Manager, and Home Fire Campaign NH/VT Regional Lead. “It proves to our teams of volunteers and partners that all this work is worth it, and we’re going to continue to see lives saved due to our efforts for years to come.”
Businesses and groups are urged to reach out the local Red Cross region to help make sure that everyone has smoke alarms in their homes. Churches, civic groups and corporations have all spent time with Red Cross volunteers as they canvass and install smoke alarms in people’s homes. And the benefits are not only for the residents.
UNH senior Stephanie O’Kresik said when she found out that one of the smoke alarms she’d helped install had saved someone, “It’s kind of shocking. You don’t really expect to hear that kind of news. But I’m also grateful to hear that he was ok. I’m just glad I could help.”
“I just want everyone to know about this,” said Paradise. “Everyone needs to have smoke alarms in their house. Please, tell everyone.”
WHAT CAN PEOPLE DO? If you, or someone you know needs their smoke alarms checked, replaced, or installed, please contact the Red Cross for a free installation appointment by calling 1-800-464-6692, or by going to http://www.redcross.org/local/new-hampshire-vermont/in-home-smoke-alarm to set up an appointment.
If your group or employees would like to help volunteers canvass or install smoke alarms on a day of volunteering, please contact Frank Grima at (603) 812-1874 (c) or email at Frank.Grima@redcross.org
The Red Cross is asking every household in America to join us in taking two simple steps that can help save lives – practicing fire drills at home and checking existing smoke alarms. In addition to preparing your home and family, volunteers are needed in many areas to help install smoke alarms in at-risk communities. People can contact their local Red Cross chapter to get involved.