A team of volunteers shares how many families they helped through the Red Cross.
July 12, 2018
Written by Katie Kuhn, United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County
Do you know what you would do if there was a fire in your home?
“When people think about disaster relief, the mind automatically goes to hurricanes and tornadoes,” said Viv Chappell of American Red Cross of Wisconsin. “In fact, the type of disaster Red Cross teams respond to most often is home fires…often a couple of times per day in Wisconsin.”
Most Americans think they would know what to do in the event of a home fire, but common mistakes – like not having a predetermined meeting place – can lead to injury or even death.
“Our goal is to provide both relief for victims and get out in front of the problem,” said Viv.
American Red Cross Wisconsin Region has begun a robust fire safety campaign which aims to ensure households have working smoke alarms and a fire escape plan.
On April 28, more than 250 community volunteers gathered at Harley-Davidson in Milwaukee for the Red Cross “Sound the Alarm, Save a Life” smoke alarm installation and fire safety education event. Over the course of the day, 757 smoke alarms were installed and 353 homes were provided with fire safety information.
“We are proud to serve all of Milwaukee, regardless of where people live, both in terms of disaster response and preparedness services,” said Viv.
“Sound the Alarm, Save a Life” was a 16-day campaign held this spring across the county, meant as a nationwide push toward home fire safety and awareness. It is part of the wider Red Cross Home Fire Campaign, which has documented 431 lives saved in the U.S. since 2014.
Additionally, Red Cross offers smoke alarm installation by appointment year-round. Anyone is able to request free smoke alarms and installation.
“I met with a family in Janesville, Wisconsin, who got alarms through the home fire campaign,” remembered Viv. “A month later, they had a fire in their home. The smoke alarm woke up mom, who was then able to alert her husband and 5-year-old son and get out of the house quickly and safely.”
“It’s so emotional to talk to families who have had an experience like this one,” said Viv. “But the impact we are making through these efforts really hits home.”
Volunteers play a big role in the Home Fire Campaign. For events like “Sound the Alarm, Save a Life,” teams of three to four receive a brief training and are assigned roles – one to install the smoke alarm, one to share fire safety information with the family, and one to keep a record of families served. Volunteers are also needed on an ongoing basis for by-appointment installations.
Viv and American Red Cross of Wisconsin are grateful to all of their volunteers, especially those groups from Milwaukee Fire Department, Near West Side Partners, UW – Milwaukee, Marquette Law, and Hope Worldwide that helped out on April 28, and the many donors that help make the campaign possible.
Viv has some simple advice for families around home fire safety: ensure you have working smoke alarms, make a plan and practice, practice, practice. For help getting started, visit the Home Fire Safety page at redcross.org.
For more information on the Home Fire Campaign in Wisconsin, including how you can request smoke alarms and get involved, click here.
Feeling inspired? Find a volunteer opportunity that let’s you make an impact by visiting our volunteer portal.