Volunteers promote fire safety during Red Cross Month

BY Lauren Wanko, Correspondent |

New Jersey resident Julie Daigle puts on her bright jacket and gets ready to work as an American Red Cross volunteer.

“The Red Cross is a humanitarian organization. It’s led by volunteers, and basically what we do is help families affected by disaster, we help members of our military, veterans and their families, and we also collect blood and teach living saving skills like first aid and CPR,” said Daigle.

In 2017, 180 New Jersey Red Cross disaster workers traveled to assist those in need. They set up shelters after a hurricane or wildfire, provided food or offered much needed emotional support.

“Sometimes just standing there, whether we’re talking or not, just the fact that they’re not alone makes a tremendous difference,” said Daigle.

The organization responds to nearly 64,000 disasters across the country each year. Daigle says 90 percent of the disasters are home fires.

“It’s almost crazy to me that two simple things — checking that you have a working smoke alarm, because a working smoke alarm reduces your risk of dying in a home fire by half. I mean, it’s crazy right, something as simple as a smoke alarm. And having a fire escape plan, so your family knows what to do if that alarm goes off, because you only have about two minutes to get out of your house when that home fire occurs. I mean, truly, this team is part of going out in the community and trying to save lives,” she said.

The American Red Cross launched its Home Fire Campaign in 2014. Since then, they’ve installed more than 1.1 million smoke alarms across the country and more than 27,000 so far in New Jersey, and the numbers continue to grow.

The Trenton Department of Fire and Emergency Services and Red Cross volunteers knock on doors in the city, asking residents if they wanted free smoke alarms and installations.

“This is very important to us. It’s protecting life and property. It’s what we’ve taken our oath to do,” said Battalion Chief John Barone.

During the door-to-door outreach, Barone told Trenton resident Rachel Sanders that her smoke alarm was too low.

“It’s truly life-saving,” said Sanders.

There’s no limit to the number of alarms the American Red Cross will provide to residents. It all depends on the need. In one home, firefighters installed five alarms.

“The goal of the Red Cross is simple,” said Daigle, “to help reduce fire-related deaths and injuries by 25 percent,”

Daigle says she’s determined to help the Red Cross reach that goal. Meantime, she’s waiting by her phone, ready to deploy whenever people need her the most.