Smoke alarm campaign a true partnership

An aggressive campaign to deliver smoke alarms to residents in Grays Harbor County has paid off in a big way for all parties involved in the process.

The campaign, which is the result of a joint partnership between the American Red Cross and local fire departments, likely saved the lives of four people — one in Aberdeen and three in Grayland.

The Aberdeen Fire Department has installed 99 smoke alarms during 193 home visits since January 2020, said Aberdeen Fire Chief Tom Hubbard to The Daily World in a story published Tuesday, Feb. 15.

The distribution of the smoke alarms in Aberdeen was largely credited for saving the life of a local resident, who was awakened from a “deep sleep” in the early morning hours of Aug. 12, 2021, by a smoke detector installed by fire department personnel.

“An appliance in his bedroom had malfunctioned and caught fire and had started spot fires on the carpet in his bedroom,” said Hubbard in an email to The Daily World.

Hubbard said the resident would have most likely died without the working smoke alarm. Fortunately, the resident was able to put the fire out himself. The department’s campaign, led by Fire Service Specialist Monica Myers, makes visits in the vicinity of where there was a call, perhaps a structure fire, and offers to install alarms for those residents if they need one.

Their effort was honored on Feb. 11 by the South Puget Sound and Olympics Chapter of the American Red Cross, which presented an award to the department for saving the resident’s life.

“The reason we’re here is because of the partnership we have with AFD,” said Dan Wirth, executive director for the South Puget Sound and Olympics Chapter. “This type of program saves lives.”

Wirth detailed that the program allows them to install smoke alarms, provide home fire safety education, discuss fire escape plans, as well as alert people to some of the common hazards around the house.

“It’s important to save lives,” he said. “It’s important for us to be able to get these alarms and this education into the community and into people’s homes.”

The American Red Cross also honored the South Beach Regional Fire Authority (SBRFA) on Feb. 11. The honor stemmed from an incident in Grayland in which a smoke detector saved the lives of an elderly couple, and a third unidentified family member on Dec. 17, 2019. The smoke alarm warned them of a fire that started in their kitchen.

Dennis Benn, fire chief for SBRFA, said to The Daily World that since 2016 his crew has installed about 150 smoke alarms in at least 50 home visits, with three per home.

Mike Michener, of the American Red Cross, said SBRFA installed a smoke alarm in the couple’s home that saved them from a kitchen fire. Michener joined Wirth for the presentations to the fire departments.

“They got out without injury,” he said. “We consider that a save. We get excited about those once we hear about those. We know those are accurate reports from the fire departments.”

Michener also spoke about the efforts of the AFD and SBRFA’s teams.

“I think it’s incredible,” he said. “Aberdeen and Westport are two excellent partners with American Red Cross. They’re top of the line. We work close with both to provide alarms and instructional materials. Both are really proactive with this thing. We couldn’t ask for better partners.”

The importance of the partnership between the South Puget Sound and Olympics Chapter of the American Red Cross and local fire departments can’t be overstated enough. And we are grateful that such relationships exist in our community.