By Courtney Valenzuela
It’s mid-Saturday morning in Parkland and a team of Red Cross volunteers join the Central Pierce Fire department as they make their way through two area mobile home parks. The teams are going door to door testing and installing smoke detectors, free of charge to residents.
This event is part of the Red Cross Home Fire Preparedness Campaign, a five-year commitment aimed to reduce home fire-related fatalities and injuries by 25 percent. According to the staff at Central Pierce Fire and Rescue, mobile homes experienced the second highest number of house fires fatalities in Pierce County last year. And for many of these homes fire alarms were deactivated or absent at the time of disaster, making a high-risk community even more vulnerable. “Older mobile homes are smaller than today’s models. They have less egress, smaller windows–many of which do not open–and are made from materials that can burn rapidly, allowing a small fire to travel quickly and consume the materials stored within,” explained Matt Holm, community service coordinator and retired assistant fire chief for the department. “In many cases the occupants did not have significant time to evacuate, or were never alerted to the fire because of the lack of smoke alarms, or properly working smoke alarms.”
In fact, more than 60 percent of these fatalities occur in homes without working smoke detectors, a number which both teams seek to reduce. The mission for today is to ensure that members of the community are equipped with a working smoke alarm, and the knowledge of what to do if they hear it go off. The visit served as a good refresher course for residents of all ages. As the adults received instructions on how to test their new smoke alarms, children were given a white board and asked to draw two emergency routes out of their house. Many families saw this as an opportunity to talk through some of the more challenging topics of fire safety. Although a small percentage of residents had personally known anyone to experience fire loss, it did not hinder the enthusiasm.
Ty Webb, a homeowner in the neighborhood, welcomed welcome the team in as soon as they stepped foot on his front porch. “I said, ‘Definitely, oh yes,’ I believe everybody should have a couple of smoke alarms . It does save your life.” In addition to the new alarms, residents were given advice on a range of fire hazards including smoking inside and what to do if you think you smell smoke “Our goal has always been to reduce fire fatalities and help educate citizens on how to prevent and get out safely in the event of a fire,” explained Holm. “This program has helped to do just that.” At the end of the day more than 100 homes had been visited and presented with information on how to better prepare for a house fire. For more information on the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign please visit RedCross.org