Over 50 volunteers, led by a national effort sponsored by the Red Cross, recently gathered to install 250 free smoke alarms in 118 homes in north Gulfport.
Members of the Gulfport Fire Department, Citizens Emergency Response Team (CERT) and residents from the community joined staff from the Red Cross on Saturday, January 19 from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. to form 18 installation teams each consisting of at least three people. It was one of several local events being held concurrently on the Martin Luther King Jr. day of service.
The home smoke alarm campaign started in 2014 and has installed a total of more than 1 million alarms in cities located in all 50 states, according to the organization’s website. An average of two to three alarms are installed in each home.
“We have a great partnership going on with the fire department, Gulfport Neighbors and CERT for an event where we go door-to-door to install smoke alarms in homes in order to make them safer,” said Linzy Wilson, manager of the American Red Cross Disaster Program, central Florida region, Tampa Bay Chapter located in St. Petersburg. Wilson is also a resident of Gulfport.
Volunteers went through a 20-minute training session conducted by Red Cross staff members and were then sent into neighborhoods with a concentration on Beachway Mobile Park, 687 54th Street S. Teams schedule a maximum of 10 minutes per home.
During the installation process, team members were under the remote supervision of Gulfport Fire Chief James V. Marenkovic who led the incident command center from the staging area located at the Most Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Church, 5800 15th Avenue S.
The manufactured home park is “a high-risk area, which is a 55 and up community in the heart of Gulfport,” said Wilson. “Those types of homes tend to catch fire a little bit quicker. It’s also easy for us to do installs because the homes are close together.
“If people are not home and they hear about the program, they can call us and we can do an individual installation.”
The Red Cross is committed to reducing home fire fatalities by 25 percent, said Axl David, a Disaster Program specialist based in Tampa. “Nationally, to date, we have documented that 511 lives have been saved through this program. We do installation year-round in Florida.”
Previously, the Red Cross has conducted installations in big city areas like Tampa and St. Petersburg, said David. Now, the program is focusing on smaller geographic areas like Gulfport “where we can make a huge impact.”
Soon, a smoke alarm installation event will take place in South Pasadena, he said.
For more information about the program, call Wilson at 727-209-3557 or David at 813-868-7656.