WILKES-BARRE — In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day — a national day of service — the Red Cross, firefighters and volunteers will be teaming to bolster fire safety in the city.
They will take to the streets Monday to install free smoke alarms and provide instruction to residents.
The program, called “Sound the Alarm. Save a Life,” is a nationwide Red Cross initiative. Since the program’s inception in 2014, the Red Cross has installed over a million smoke alarms across the country, said regional director of communications Dave Skutnik.
This will be the fourth time the program takes place in Wilkes-Barre.
The event will kick off at the Hollenbeck Fire Station at 9 a.m., where volunteers will be trained in installing the smoke alarms for homeowners.
At 10 a.m., volunteers will break into teams of three, armed with smoke alarms, screws, a drill, a ladder and paperwork. They will then start knocking on doors.
In addition to the community surrounding the station, alarms will be installed near the Miners Mills section of the city.
“We promote the event somewhat on social media, and I know we put out yard signs in the neighborhoods that we’ll be visiting that they can expect a knock on the door. But for the most part, we go door to door knocking on doors and just ask people when the last time they’ve changed their smoke alarm batteries, when they last tested their smoke alarms,” Skutnik said.
Neighborhoods canvassed are chosen by the fire department, explained Fire Chief Jay Delaney.
”(Representatives from the Red Cross) will come and meet with us, and ask if there is a targeted neighborhood that we would want them to do the education and installation of the smoke alarms,” Delaney said. “We have a map here of the city, and we just looked for an area that we thought would be a good target area.”
When choosing a neighborhood, he said the fire department takes into account how densely populated the area is, how close houses are to each other, and other factors determining potential loss of life in the event of a fire.
Delaney explained how important it is to have working smoke alarms — “working” being the operative word.
“You have twice as good a chance to get out of a fire if there’s a smoke alarm, than if there is no smoke alarm,” he said.
“It’s my belief that a lot of people just don’t think there’s value in it. But I can tell you, we know that they save lives, we know there’s early recognition to a fire, and it allows them time, in most instances, to get out,” Delaney added.
Skutnik also explained the importance of replacing old alarms, saying that many people don’t know they last only about 10 years.
“You’d be shocked at smoke alarms that we’ve pulled off ceilings, and they’re dated from the ’80s,” said Skutnik.
In addition to installing the alarms, volunteers also offer education to homeowners.
“The part that I like, they don’t just give them a smoke alarm, they talk about fire safety,” Chief Delaney said. “I think it’s a valuable five minutes or so that they take with them, and I think it does some really good things for how you can escape from a fire, for how you can better protect yourself.”
As far as the occasion, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, both Skutnik and Delaney conveyed reverence and pride for their participation in the day of service.
“That’s what Dr. King was all about … giving back to your community and to the country … it really resonates well with both the community and the volunteers,” Skutnik said.
“On behalf of the fire department, we feel that this is a good pick to honor Dr. King and all the work that he did, and I think this just shows an example of how the Red Cross and the fire department are partnering together to do something for their community,” Delaney said.