Clovis Fire Department, American Red Cross work together in honor of MLK Day of Service

American Red Cross volunteers and Clovis Fire Department officials meet inside Fire Station No. 1 in Old Town Clovis prior to going out into the community to install fire alarms and educate residents on fire safety. (Leticia Madrigal/Clovis Roundup)

In honor of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, over 120 community volunteers installed nearly 600 smoke alarms in 250 homes and educated Clovis residents on how to create a fire escape plan as part of the American Red Cross “Sound the Alarm. Save a Life.” project in collaboration with Clovis Fire Department on Saturday, Jan. 13.

The American Red Cross began this nationwide campaign in 2014 with the goal to reduce home fires by 25 percent, said Taylor Poisall, public information officer at American Red Cross of Central California.

“That means going door-to-door and installing smoke alarms to anyone that needs it or testing their current ones, seeing if they’re about to run out of battery life and we’ll replace it and then, working on a home-fire escape plan because you really only have up to two minutes to grab your valuables, your family and then get out of there,” said Poisall. “What we are trying to do is help people be prepared and ready to go incase that ever happens.”

From 2009 through 2013, Clovis Fire Department reported that three of every five home-fire deaths resulted from fires in homes with no working smoke alarms and one of every five had smoke alarms present that did not sound.

This year, American Red Cross of Central California selected the City of Clovis as part of the MLK Day of Service.

Chad Fitzgerald, life safety enforcement manager with Clovis Fire, said the Department has installed smoke detectors in homes in the past but expressed the importance of having the Red Cross host and oversee events also focused on installing and maintaining these smoke alarms within high risk communities.

“Smoke detectors are that first component to alert and get people safely out of their home in the event of a fire,” said Fitzgerald. “When those in the home are able to get up and get out, it helps us do our job easier because we know we don’t have to rescue somebody – and hopefully catch the fire sooner.”

Installation and outreach events through Red Cross are all made possible thanks to community volunteers that donate their time regularly or on event-based occasions. That is the case of Elizabeth Servin. A Red Cross volunteer since 2014, she knew her participation during the MLK Day of Service was important.

“As a latino, I feel it is important to get out in the Spanish speaking community and inform them of the services that are being offered to them,” said Servin. “Often, many don’t know what is been offered to them when they knock on their door because they don’t understand the language. So being able to communicate with them and help them understand the importance and benefits of a program like this is really fulfilling.”

Last year, in the Central California region alone, the Red Cross and its partners installed 3,998 smoke alarms, created 1,622 fire escape plans and served 6,608 people.