The American Red Cross and a state lawmaker from Nassau County teamed up to help fireproof homes by installing free smoke detectors in a dozen of them while raising awareness about fire safety.
Holiday lights, space heaters and candles spark an increase in home fires during the cold winter season, so to help residents sleep easier at night, volunteers from the Red Cross on Long Island and Assemb. Michaelle Solages (D-Elmont) fanned out to several Elmont and Valley Stream homes with the lifesaving alarms in tow.
“We realize home fires are preventable and time and time again, we’re seeing, unfortunately, more individuals and children dying in these home fires, so the best thing you can do to prevent these deaths is get a free smoke alarm,” Solages said. It’s her second year partnering with the organization.
Equipped with a ladder, a drill, and boxes of $50 smoke detectors, a small crew got to work Saturday morning, placing the gadgets in several key areas, including bedrooms, dining rooms and hallways. Expected to last 10 years, they're not recommended for use in the kitchen or near cooking appliances, where the devices would likely go off arbitrarily and turn into a nuisance.
“It's amazing how sensitive they are,” said Jose Dominguez, CEO of the Red Cross on Long Island. "That’s often when people decide to take it out."
On Newburgh Street in Elmont, 64-year-old Olga Sarabia had seven detectors installed in her home. Sarabia said her husband was responsible for upkeep and no one had overseen fire safety since he died in 2004.
“He took care of all the maintenance of the home and I didn’t follow through with it,” said Sarabia, who reached out to Solages’ office after getting a notice. “I really needed them. Even if I bought them, I wouldn’t know where to put them so this is really great.”
According to the Red Cross, home fires kill an average of seven people a day nationwide, causing more annual deaths than all other natural disasters combined. Most of the deaths occur in homes without working fire alarms. The organization has helped protect more than 4,000 Long Island households while installing more than 13,000 alarms since 2014.
Lori Pizzarelli, a Red Cross Long Island home fire team leader, doled out several tips, stressing that appliances should be plugged directly into wall outlets, and space heaters and fireplaces should be kept three feet away from anything combustible. She also warned people to stay away from dollar store extension cords and power strips and instead purchase ones with Underwriters Laboratory (UL) approval.
Other recommendations include buying an ABC-rated fire extinguisher that douses grease and electrical fires as well as flames caused by paper or cloth. Equally important are a carbon monoxide detector and a fire escape ladder for second floor rooms, plus reflective outdoor stickers that display the house number. The Red Cross also recommends practicing a two-minute fire escape plan.
Myrtha Robin, 64, who lives with her 92-year-old mother in Valley Stream, said she wasn’t sure whether her alarms were working when she signed up for the free service.
“I want to keep her safe,” Robin said. “There’s been too many incidents of fire happening in the neighborhood.”
“Sometimes they age and I’m a single woman so my son has to make sure they work," she said. "If a professional comes and installs ones for me, then I know it’s safe."
Free smoke alarms
How residents can get free fire alarms, home installation and fire safety information:
- Request an appointment with the Red Cross Long Island online: https://www.redcross.org/local/new-york/greater-new-york/about-us/our-work/home-fire-campaign-long-island.html or call 877-Red Cross (option 5).
- Residents who live in Assemb. Michaelle Solages’s district may reach out to her at 516-599-2972.
- Officials also recommend buying a separate carbon monoxide detector.