American Red Cross Alaska Region exceeds regional goals with the “Sound The Alarm Campaign”

Published: May. 27, 2022 at 11:01 AM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - Home fires claim roughly seven lives nationwide every day according to a report published by the National Fire Protection Agency.

For this reason, the American Red Cross has volunteers across the nation installing smoke alarms and educating communities on home and fire safety during their annual “Sound the Alarm Campaign.”

This event takes place during the month of May, with a mission to install more than 50,000 smoke alarms around the country. Here in Alaska, the goals were exceeded.

At the tip of the Seward Peninsula, Alaska’s western city of Nome got its claim to fame as the most famous Gold Rush town in Alaska. This year, it was designated as the “Spotlight City” during the Sound the Alarm event.

“It’s pretty unique, I grew up here. It’s been so nice being able to give back to the community that raised me,” said Spike Milligrock. He is The Disaster Program Manager for the City of Nome and also worked as the Team Lead on the trip for the Alaska Region of the Red Cross.

Milligrock and other volunteers teamed up with the Nome Volunteer Fire Department, going door to door around the city. Over a three-day period, volunteers were able to install and test more than 200 smoke alarms in over 70 residential homes and apartments.

“The goal was 288 smoke alarms installed, and I believe we came very, very close if not we have exceeded,” Milligrock exclaimed.

Other American Red Cross teams worked across the state installing smoke alarms; from Utqiagvik, to Fairbanks, Anchorage, and Juneau, to name a few.

The volunteers did more than just install smoke alarms. They spent time with residents promoting home and fire safety. “What would you do if there was a fire in your house?” was one of the questions asked while promoting fire safety.

The team encouraged residents to talk with their families about having a plan in the event there was a fire in the home and who to call.

Kevin Knowlton is the Assistant Fire Chief for Nome Volunteer Fire Department. He says many times people don’t want to think about the bad things that could happen, like fires in the home. Giving people solutions can help start the conversation and give parents the tools to talk with their kids about fire safety.

“For us being able to do this, even though we have a smoke detector program here at the Nome Volunteer Fire Department, it hasn’t been pushed especially because of COVID, and so this is a great opportunity to get it pushed out to the community and, and really get people to start thinking about fire safety,” said Knowlton.

Knowlton along with the volunteers encouraged residents to find an area that is a designated safe place outside the home. A place where family members could meet in the event of an emergency. They also talked with residents about drills they could practice with their families and encouraged residents to test their smoke alarms regularly.

According to the Red Cross website, if the smoke alarm in your home is 10 years old or older, it is time to get a new alarm because the sensor becomes less sensitive over time.

“Smoke Alarms are a really good thing to do because they really do save lives. A lot of people die in fires because it happens in the middle of the night when everyone is asleep, and they don’t wake up until it’s too late to get out,” said Doug Loushbough, a volunteer out of Fairbanks.

Loushbaugh has worked as both a paid and volunteer firefighter in his past. He stressed the importance of checking them regularly. “I’ve been to many homes where smoke alarms have given them [home owners] time to get out,” he said. “If your house catches on fire, you often have 2 or 3 minutes to get out, and if you don’t wake up quickly, it’s too late, and smoke alarms fix that.”

While in Nome, volunteers also spent time educating the youth on what to do if there was a fire in the home. Diane Bigge, a volunteer out of Juneau, Alaska, and a small group of three volunteers spent time at Nome Elementary School speaking with students.

“You know, they [students] asked some very serious questions today about getting out with family members, and how to help babies, and little baby siblings, and how to help their elders, and how to help their family members who are disabled,” said Bigge. “So we had an opportunity to talk about a lot of those situations and then why it is important to prepare, and why it’s important to really practice and do drills.”

The Red Cross has a program directed at students in K- second grade called “Prepare with Pedro.” This storybook and interactive lesson helps students practice drills and learn sayings like “Get Low and Go”. For students in grades, 3-5 the “Pillowcase Project” teaches students to “Learn, Practice, Share.” The purpose is for students to take what they had learned and share it with loved ones.

“We saw several children after the presentation and they came up and thanked us, and they smiled and recognized us showed us their “Prepare with Pedro books,” and their workbooks, and showed off the things that we had given them as part of the program,” she added.

Bryan Cassella, Regional Disaster Program Officer for the Alaska Region of the Red Cross. Cassella says, “Having a presence in Nome is important because it can help to build the Red Cross volunteer workforce and let the surrounding communities that if they need assistance, there are here to help.”

“I think that it is important that the Red Cross is always evolving and adapting to the needs of the communities,” said Cassella. “We have such an amazing, diverse state, in terms of its people and in terms of its needs and disaster response issues. So it is really important for the Red Cross to be an active listener.”

In addition to being a volunteer Assistant Fire Chief, Knowlton also works in Emergency Preparedness for the tribal entities throughout the region. He says he will take what he has learned from this experience and pass on to the other 15 villages in the region.

“We are working on developing an exercise small emergency response plans, hazard mitigation plans, and just fire prevention,” said Knowlton. “So being involved with this has also given me an opportunity to start thinking about how I can maybe introduce some of the things that we have talked about over this weekend with the “Sound the Alarm,” and take that to the villages.”

“I will take away the memory of being back and seeing all those I grew up with, said Milligrock. “You know being from Nome, me being from Nome, Nome raised me. I would really love to see you know, the Nome community be safe, stay safe, stay alive, you know keep our traditions going.”

“Nome, it’s been a pleasure. It won’t be our last time by any means, and also if you’re ever willing, able, interested in supporting the Red Cross, we would love to have you as a volunteer. We are always looking for new recruits, especially in your communities so that we can reach out and better support the needs of that area, said Cassella. “We can all be active responders in our community.”

For more information on the Red Cross of Alaska or the “Sound the Alarm Campaign, visit their website.

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