The American Red Cross teamed up with the Idaho Falls Fire Department Saturday, Oct. 17 to install 233 free smoke alarms in at-risk Idaho Falls homes, according to American Red Cross Regional Communications Director Anna Fernandez-Gevaert.
“Our goal is to let people know what they can do to ensure their own safety in the case of a house fire,” Fernandez-Gevaert said. “People don’t check their smoke alarms; people don’t check if the battery needs to be replaced, and nobody practices fire evacuation plans.”
The regional Red Cross’s efforts also include educating people on how to quickly and effectively respond to domestic fire situations, Fernandez-Gevaert said.
“We’re really trying to make people understand just how quickly they have to move to get everyone in their house, including pets, outside,” Fernandez- Gevaert said.
Seven people die every day in the United States from house fires, and 36 are injured, according to the National Fire Protection Association.
The regional Red Cross hopes to help people understand that serious injury and death is preventable, Fernandez-Gevaert said.
“What people need to understand is that this is preventable,” Fernandez-Gevaert said. “Once a house is on fire, people have about two minutes to get out, so we strongly recommend that home owners not only devise a plan of evacuation, but practice it as well, staying within that time period.”
Fernandez-Gevaert said the Red Cross developed a five-year campaign to decrease the number of house fire-related deaths and injuries because of the 70,000 disasters the American Red Cross responds to across the U.S. About 63,000 are house fires.
“People don’t seem to know just how often fires happen,” Fernandez-Gevaert said. “That’s something we see every single day. We decided we want to not only respond, but to help people devise an action plan for their own homes.”
Every three out of five deaths that occur in home fires happen in homes where there is no smoke alarm, according to the National Fire  Protection Association.
Rusty Devereaux, disaster program manager for the Red Cross of Greater Idaho, said the best way to improve fire safety at home is to have a working smoke alarm, according to a news release issued by the American Red Cross of Greater Idaho.
Fernandez-Gevaert said over 200 homes received free smoke alarms along with free installation on Saturday.
“We knock on doors and explain who we are and what we do,” Fernandez-Gevaert said. “There are teams of two or three, and along with the installation, we share a lot of fire safety information with the home owners and their families. We help them develop a fire-safety plan in two different ways: to make sure they know how to exit their homes from multiple exits, and so they know where to congregate outside their homes so the family knows everyone is safe.”
The Idaho Falls Fire Department, assisted in the installation of smoke alarms.
“What we do is work with local fire departments,” Fernandez-Gevaert said. “They generally have a sense of the homes that are more vulnerable. There are fewer smoke alarms in older homes, so those are common targets for the installation.”
Along with the American Red Cross of Greater Idaho and the Idaho Falls Fire Department, Melaleuca, Servpro, Home Depot, WestOne Logistics, Bank of Idaho, Paul Davis Restoration and Boys Scouts of America participated in the local campaign.
Fernandez-Gevaert said there were over 100 volunteers that participated on Saturday.
“We try to engage local volunteers to help us do these installs,” Fernandez-Gevaert said. “It’s so important to raise awareness that house fires are so devastating. Families lose all their things, their memories.”