Sound the Alarm event is May 14: ‘It saves lives’

The Red Cross is teaming up with the City of Rochelle and the Rochelle Fire Department for the smoke alarm and home fire safety event next month for Rochelle residents. Smoke alarms with 10-year lithium batteries will be installed by volunteers free of charge.

Rochelle Fire, Red Cross and volunteers to install free smoke alarms

ROCHELLE — When asked about the value of the Sound the Alarm event on May 14, American Red Cross Disaster Program Specialist Lori Compton responded with three words.

“It saves lives,” Compton said. 

The Red Cross is teaming up with the City of Rochelle and the Rochelle Fire Department for the smoke alarm and home fire safety event next month for Rochelle residents. Smoke alarms with 10-year lithium batteries will be installed by volunteers free of charge. Compton hopes to install at least 250 smoke alarms on May 14. 850 homes will be canvassed in advance of the event.

The Red Cross is rallying volunteers to install 50,000 free smoke alarms nationwide this May in its Sound the Alarm events. Compton said at least 60 volunteers will be needed in Rochelle. 

Volunteers will work from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and the rally location will be at The REC Center at 802 Jones Road in Rochelle. To volunteer, visit SoundTheAlarm.org. Background checks will be required of any non-employee volunteers.

“We need people to come out and volunteer and help install and save lives,” Compton said. “Get into those homes and get those smoke alarms installed. That's the big part of this program versus other things. You can go out and get smoke alarms from other programs, but the big thing is installing it. This program we install them and we're ensuring that those are working smoke alarms. They're 10-year lithium batteries. The batteries can't be taken out for games because the alarm will beep. They're there to stay for 10 years. It's continual security for people."

The Red Cross has a long history of working in the Rochelle area, most notably when it helped area residents recover from an EF4 tornado in 2015. When there’s a fire with affected residents in town, the organization comes in to help with immediate assistance. That longtime relationship with the city and its fire services brought about Sound the Alarm.

“We just felt that this was a community that would benefit greatly from this service we offer,” Compton said. “We came out and talked to the fire department a couple of months ago and they were on board just from that first conversation we had with them. They've been great to work with. It does save lives and I think it's a wonderful opportunity for Rochelle's residents to be able to have this service in their community and the outlying areas."

Residents that want a free smoke alarm can email [email protected] or call 815-562-6161. 

Dave Boyles of The Red Cross said there are no income requirements for those that want a smoke detector and anyone is eligible to have one free of charge. A new smoke alarm with a 10-year battery will be installed regardless of the situation, including even if someone has a working detector that’s only a couple of years old. 

Compton said installers will only be on scene for about 20 minutes in each home and will also be giving out education information about preventing fires and a laminated escape plan. That way, residents can practice their own escape plan to get out of their home in case of a fire.

“That's another piece to the whole puzzle,” Compton said. “You have typically less than two minutes to get out of your home when there's a fire. So it's very important to be able to get out of your home and to a safe spot. That's part of the responsibility of the fire department. Before they will go and fight that fire, they're making sure everybody is out of that house. If you have been practicing that plan with your family, then you'll be more likely to be able to get out of that house once that smoke alarm goes off.”

Compton said people not having working smoke detectors is the leading cause of fire deaths. Working smoke alarms can cut the risk of death from home fires in half. Boyles said seven people a day die from home fires.

The Red Cross isn’t just looking for volunteers for the May 14 event. It also is in need of volunteers to go out and help local residents when they’re affected by disasters. When helping fire victims in the past, Red Cross workers have seen the impact Sound the Alarm has made.

“We've actually had things come up where people had fires and they were saved by smoke detectors that we installed,” Boyles said. “That has happened across the country and in Illinois. It does save lives.”

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