Volunteers, fire officials and Red Cross staff members dispersed throughout neighborhoods along Seventh Street on Saturday morning for free smoke alarm installations.
Their sweep of the south side neighborhood was part of the national Sound the Alarm effort, happening at selected locations throughout the country as a way to promote home fire safety.
The Red Cross hopes to prevent home fire-related injuries “by getting into homes and installing free alarms,” said Eric Meyers, executive director of American Red Cross of Western Colorado, which covers 27 counties in the western half of the state.
Cortez was selected to participate out of a list submitted by the Western Colorado chapter, said Dick Simmons, a community volunteer leader who lives in the Mancos Valley. This is the city’s first year of taking part.
According to the Red Cross website, the organization responds to an average of 62,000 disasters every year, most of which are home fires. Every day, the organization reports, seven people die and 36 others are injured from home fires in the U.S.
Home fires cause $7 billion worth of property damage every year, according to the Red Cross. Many of the casualties occur in homes without fire alarms, and the residents most severely impacted are the young and the elderly.
As recently as November, a woman was killed when her home south of Cortez was destroyed by a fire.
Sound the Alarm is a parallel campaign to the Home Fire Safety campaign, which the American Red Cross organization launched in 2014, with the specific goal of reducing fire-related deaths and injuries in the United States by 25%. Nationally, for the Sound the Alarm event, the Red Cross hoped to install 100,000 free smoke alarms April 27 through May 12.
In Cortez, volunteers and staff gathered at the Cortez Fire Department at 31 N. Washington St. at 9 a.m., before heading over to the mobile home parks along East Seventh Street by the old high school site. Those neighborhoods had been selected after Red Cross staff met with Fire Chief Jay Balfour – they were looking for areas where smoke alarms were less likely to have been updated recently, Myers said.
Additionally, for logistical reasons, they wanted to focus on an area with homes close together, as it would allow them to target more sites, he said.
Volunteers were divided up into teams of three, with each team consisting of an installer, educator, and a documenter. The “installer” was responsible for the smoke alarm installation, the “educator” spoke with residents about home fire safety plans, and the “documenter” tracked the homes that received smoke alarms.
Myers said they were able to install 136 alarms in 51 homes on Saturday. “A huge success,” he said.