Free Smoke Alarms Provide Peace of Mind

Blog main logo_StackedAt age 70, Elizabeth K. isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. Her schedule includes regular Zumba classes and volunteering at an equine therapy center for people with mental and physical challenges.

“I try to stay busy,” says the Contra Costa resident, whose partner Fred passed away from cancer a few years ago.

“When Fred was alive, he was able to reach things around the house that I couldn’t. After he died, the smoke alarms in our house started beeping and I couldn’t get to them,” explains Elizabeth, who is 5-feet-tall and afraid of falling from a ladder.

That’s why she was so relieved when a friend told her that the Red Cross installs smoke detectors and provides fire safety education to seniors for free.

“It was a huge relief since I had nobody to help me,” she says.

Fire safety education is particularly important for seniors, who can experience a decline in cognitive and physical abilities, affecting their ability to change smoke detectors and evacuate during an emergency. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, older adults are 2.7 times more likely to die in a home fire than the total population.

Elizabeth scheduled an appointment and in February, two volunteers visited her home, where they installed four smoke alarms in 15 minutes.

“It was very quick and the size of the smoke alarms was the same as the old ones, so I didn’t have to worry about [unsightly] paint on the ceiling,” she says.

The new state-mandated devices have extended life batteries, which means she won’t have to worry about replacing them for another 10 years. The Federal Emergency Management Agency recommends replacing smoke alarms 10 years from the date of manufacture, which can be found on the back of the alarm.

“It’s been a huge relief to me because the hardest part was when the batteries would go out and I couldn’t figure out which one was beeping, or how to replace it,” Elizabeth says.

The volunteers also provided her with information about creating a fire escape plan, which includes identifying multiple ways to exit your home and designating a meeting point with others where first responders can find you. “I hadn’t really thought about it but it makes sense,” she says.

Elizabeth was so pleased with the program, she’s already shared the information with a senior friend.

“The peace of mind alone is worth it,” she says.

About the author: Arianne Aryanpur is a Red Cross volunteer writer with our California Northwest Chapter.