KNOX - The American Red Cross Northwestern Pennsylvania Chapter wants to get more smoke detectors into homes in Knox Borough and is planning a major effort to do so.
Red Cross Home Fire Preparedness Campaign coordinator Geoffrey Domowicz explained the organization's plan at the April 5 meeting of Knox Borough Council.
Domowicz said when the Red Cross first started its education and smoke detector program forty percent of home fires involved a fatality.
The Red Cross Home Fire Preparedness Campaign was originally aimed at educating school-aged children about home fires and provided smoke detectors to the kids to take home.
Domowicz said that effort dropped the home fire fatality rate to about 20 percent.
"We knew we were making progress," said Domowicz. "So we branched out we started targeting entire communities."
Knox Borough was an "at-risk, targeted community" in 2019 and the Red Cross planned to bring the Home Fire Preparedness Campaign to the borough in 2020, however, the COVID-19 pandemic pushed the program back until this year.
Council member Linda Runyan asked what factors made Knox an "at-risk, targeted community."
Domowicz said the borough's higher than average number of senior citizens and the number of low-income families are the main factors.
According to the U.S. Fire Administration, home fires are more likely to start in the kitchen than any other room in the home. The second leading cause of home fires are heating sources like wood stoves, and fireplaces. Fires caused by smoking are the leading cause of deaths.
When you're asleep, there's a very low chance a fire will wake you up, and by then, it could be too late. Smoke is the actual killer it's completely silent, and inhaling the toxic fumes causes most fire-related deaths.
Domowicz said the Red Cross program comes at no expense to the borough or the residents it helps.
The costs of the program including the many smoke detectors given to residents are covered by major sponsors, including insurance companies, major healthcare providers, utility companies and even the Pittsburgh Steelers organization.
How it works
Domowicz said that on April 28, Red Cross volunteers will canvas the borough and leave "door hangers" at each residence in the borough.
The information left on the door will include directions on how to have the Red Cross volunteers conduct a home fire risk evaluation. The evaluation, performed by trained volunteers, will help a resident understand fire risk factors and prevention and will also determine how many smoke detectors are needed to adequately serve the home.
The Red Cross volunteers will return to the borough May 8 to perform the evaluations requested by interested residents.
Domowicz said he planned to meet with the leadership of the Knox Volunteer Fire Department this week to determine if the department will assist with the effort, including the installation of the smoke detectors if needed.
Domowicz said the Red Cross hopes for and welcomes the fire department's participation in the campaign, but also understands the manpower limitations of small, volunteer fire companies.
Domowicz said all Red Cross volunteers working on the program will be wearing Red Cross logoed jackets and will be carrying photo identification.
Knox Borough Council members indicated their support for the campaign and encourages borough residents to participate.
Additional information and promotional materials will be made available in the coming weeks, including brochures and signage throughout the borough.