“Where there’s smoke, there’s fire,” as the saying goes — but several local volunteers and municipalities are working to make sure where there’s smoke people will know, and get out safely.
In conjunction with the American Red Cross, volunteers throughout La Salle County took part in the Sound the Alarm campaign, part of the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign — an awareness and fire safety/prevention program started in 2014. Ottawa and Streator conducted events Saturday as well.
The goal of the campaign is to ensure every home has working smoke alarms, professionally installed and free.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, each day, seven people die in home fires. A number of lives may be saved thanks to local fire protection districts, ambulance services and volunteers.
Kent Terry, a Marseilles Rotary Club member, pastor and local humanitarian, spoke of how the event made its way to his hometown of Marseilles.
“Although Marseilles was not originally planned to be a part of the Sound the Alarm program, a chance meeting with Mark Nienhuis, of the Red Cross, who is overseeing this program, led to it’s inclusion,” Terry said.
“I met Mark at a Red Cross meeting and we were talking about this smoke alarm program and I said, ‘Mark, we can make this work in Marseilles. In my Rotary Club I have the fire chief, the city mayor and a commissioner, along with our membership we can do a very successful program,” he added.
A pre-event breakfast exemplified the sense of community support Marseilles has, as explained by Terry.
“At breakfast, eight volunteer firemen and EMS personnel met with Fire Chief Michael Garrison and two Rotarians, myself, and Kerry Caba. The group was later joined by Mayor Jim Hollenbeck, who is also a volunteer fireman and an assistant chief. This was a wonderful example of community collaboration,” Terry said. “I am fortunate to be part of both organizations and Rotary was the place where all the pieces fell into place to make the program work in our community.”
Garrison has been fighting fires for 42 years and he said he has been wanting a prevention program like this for decades.
“This is our first year with this program, but I have been hoping to see something like this since I began my career,” he said. “Our goal is to get everyone, every home, protected from fire.”
Garrison was joined by eight of his firefighting team as well as some from the Marseilles Area Ambulance Service.
He explained exactly how the effort works.
“It’s so easy — I wish everyone would do it,” he said. “People can apply online or call us or the ambulance department and we come out and install the alarms. It all takes about a half hour for average-sized homes, maybe an hour for larger homes.”
Garrison also explained the campaign involves not only installation of the alarms/detectors, but also a safety assessment and education regarding fire and smoke, carbon monoxide and escape planning.
Though the Red Cross campaign ends Saturday, May 13, the Marseilles Fire Protection District will continue efforts Garrison is passionate about to any homeowner who calls for help.
“We’re hoping for 60 homes (Saturday) and already done 100 homes before this. I want every household to have a smoke alarm in every sleeping area and common area. It’s a personal goal of mine. Anyone can call at any time and I will make sure they are protected,” he said
Terry expressed a special thank you for the program.
“Thanks to the Red Cross for providing this wonderful program, to the hard-working and dedicated volunteer firemen who volunteered their time and to Rotary for helping organize the program in our city. Thanks to their combined efforts many families in Marseilles can now sleep better at night knowing that if there is a fire, they will be awakened.”
For more information about the Sound the Alarm program, visit redcross.org/soundthealarm. In Marseilles, visit Marseilles Fire Protection District on Facebook for an online application or call 815-795-5535. Those in other areas of La Salle County are advised to call the local fire department or City Hall.