HUNTINGTON — American Red Cross and Appalachian Power teamed up Monday to train volunteers and install smoke alarms to combat preventable disasters in homes across Huntington.
"We have saved over 25 documented lives by installing these alarms all over West Virginia," said Erica Mani, regional CEO of the American Red Cross. "Being prepared and having smoke alarms can cut your risk of dying in half."
The installation teams planned to install roughly 50 fire alarms Monday, with an average of three new alarms per home visited. The teams had about a dozen installation appointments with local residents, in addition to plans to visit several other homes around the city to make them safer with the owners' permission.
"We do this all year round and have been doing so since the fall of 2014," Mani said. "We just reached a milestone of over 25,000 alarms installed."
In addition to installing alarms for residents in need, installation teams spoke with local homeowners about the dangers of negligence in keeping up with home fire safety standards.
"Together, we are going to make homes safer by helping to educate families and installing free smoke alarms," Mani said, "because home fire is the most common disaster, not only in West Virginia, but across the country, that the Red Cross responds to on a daily basis."
Fires are so dangerous because of their prevalence as well as their often-sudden outbursts, giving residents little or no time to react, Mani said.
"Fire knows no rules or socioeconomic bounds. It happens without warning oftentimes and to anyone and, all-too-often in the middle of the night," Mani said. "I think this is so important, because most people aren't thinking about home fire safety on a regular basis."
One of those people is lifelong Huntingtonian and former Cabell Midland High School teacher Shelley Hage, who was one of about a dozen Huntington residents to make an installation appointment for Monday.
"The team is putting in smoke alarms for me to make sure my house is protected." Hage said. "They are making sure I am protected."
Hage said she believes house fires are a major issue in the Huntington area, possibly because so many people are homeless and/or in need and cannot afford to keep their homes safe, if they even have a home.
Elderly residents often have troubles with house fires as well, she said, because as people grow older, they become more likely to be negligent and forgetful.
"The most dangerous thing I have ever done is leave an item sitting on the stove (while it is heated) and forget about it," Hage said. "These sorts of things happen with a lot of older people."