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Red Cross Kaua‘i sounds the alarm on fire safety

LIHU‘E — In an effort to protect residents from the dangers of house fires, volunteers from humanitarian groups American Red Cross Kaua‘i and Team Rubicon are installing free smoke alarms and educating homeowners on how to stay safe in the event of a fire.

“There’s a saying in disaster management — ‘every disaster is local,’” said Padraic Gallagher, director of disaster services at Red Cross Kaua‘i. “It starts at a county level and moves up to a state level. Well, you can narrow that down to ‘every disaster is a household’ so that they’re prepared in all way, shape and form.”

The Sound the Alarm campaign kicked off Saturday, and is planned to continue through the end of June.

According to the Red Cross, house fires kill seven people every day, while functioning smoke alarms can cut the risk of death in half.

Gallagher emphasized how much faster residents are able to react to a house fire if they have smoke alarms — especially if they’re sleeping.

“(Without an alarm), you will likely never wake up,” he said.

Additionally, Gallagher noted that smoke alarms can detect smoldering long before a full fire breaks out — protecting residents from potentially toxic fumes they may not have otherwise noticed.

Sound the Alarm volunteers also teach residents valuable fire safety information, like how to clean smoke detectors to ensure that they work properly.

Inside of smoke alarms, two receptors bounce tiny waves back and forth. When small particles, such as smoke, disrupt the waves, the alarm is triggered. However, the receptors can mistake household dust as smoke if enough accumulates in the detector, triggering a false alarm. To prevent this, Gallagher recommends cleaning smoke detectors once a month.

“Just take a vacuum cleaner and run over it, take a broom and run over it — if you’ve got canned air for a computer, run that through,” he said. “It’s like any kind of working device in your home that requires maintenance.”

If consistently well-maintained, smoke detectors should last about 10 years, according to Gallagher.

“We want you to get the most out of your smoke alarm,” he continued. “Merchants will just say, ‘Replace it,’ where you probably still have some life to it.”

While installing the free alarms, volunteers also help residents create escape plans in the event of a fire.

According to the Red Cross, victims of home fires often have as little as two minutes to escape before it’s too late. Red Cross Kaua‘i Volunteer of the Year Matthew Crane told The Garden Island that fires spread faster than most people anticipate, and smoke — which, when inhaled, causes more fatalities than fire itself — spreads even faster.

“Breathing is so back-of-mind, you’re not thinking about it until you can’t breathe — and then that’s all you can think about,” he said. “You’re not thinking about getting out of the house. You’re thinking, ‘I can’t breathe. I’m choking,’” Crane said.

To ensure that residents can quickly and safely escape a burning home, Gallagher recommends identifying multiple exit paths beforehand.

“They want to look at traditional exists first — lanai, doors, ground-floor windows that they can get out through,” Gallagher said. “And they want to look at opposite sides, so if you have a front door, do you have a back door or a side door so that if you’re at a halfway point in the home, you have an escape route if the fire is in the front door.”

While people living above the first floor may find themselves with less-obvious solutions, Gallagher noted that even tying a bedsheet to a bedpost can help residents climb out a window to safety.

“You might fall, you might break a leg, but you’re going to get out of the house,” he added.

Individuals interested in signing up for the Sound the Alarm campaign can call Red Cross Kaua‘i at 808-245-4919.


Jackson Healy, reporter, can be reached at 808-647-4966 or
Source: The Garden Island

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