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The American Red Cross

The American Red Cross is best known for providing basic need support during large-scale natural disasters; however, the vast majority of the nearly 64,000 disasters they respond to annually are actually home fires.

Every day seven people are killed and another 36 people suffer injuries as a result of home fires. Home fire deaths occur more among people in poverty, who may find it cost-prohibitive to purchase fire-safe products, smoke alarms and fire extinguishers. Also, many low-income individuals reside in older homes and apartment buildings that are susceptible to fire. With more than 32 percent of Syracuse residents living below the poverty line, the American Red Cross of Central New York recognized a need to help prevent future tragedy.

With the assistance of a Community Foundation grant, the Red Cross launched Sound the Alarm, Save a Life to promote fire prevention and preparedness as well as install smoke alarms in the most vulnerable Syracuse homes: aging, single-family dwellings located in high poverty neighborhoods. More than 300 volunteers installed 403 smoke alarms in Syracuse in one day. Over the course of the year, they installed a total of 980 smoke alarms in economically challenged neighborhoods. 

Susan Pope, Red Cross disaster program manager, praised other nonprofit organizations, specifically InterFaith Works, for leading the way and acting as a conduit into the homes of New Americans, which desperately need smoke alarms. 

“InterFaith Works was our trusted messenger to the refugee community,” said Pope. “When refugees arrive in the United States, they don’t understand what a smoke alarm can do and how important they are. Working with others to get this message to them can save lives.”

Sound the Alarm emphasizes the rule of twos for fire safety - an easy-to-remember guide to help prepare in the case of fire: 

“You need two ways out of each room, you have a maximum of two minutes to get out of the house when you hear that smoke alarm go off and you should run through your escape route twice a year,” said Pope. “To be properly prepared, you must practice.”

Pope and her colleague, Malisa Kurtz, Red Cross regional philanthropy officer, note that the success of the day and the work of the American Red Cross would not be possible without the support of countless volunteers, community partners and donors like the Community Foundation. 

“It truly was a community effort,” said Kurtz. “And we couldn’t be more grateful for all the support we received along the way.”