David Cofer was getting ready to move into a new home with his wife Amy and son Jacob in late December when Red Cross volunteer Tim Skaggs asked him if the home had smoke alarms. When David said that it didn’t, Tim arranged for the Red Cross to come out and install some for free. A few months after the alarms were installed, the Cofers were awakened around midnight by one of the alarms. David, Amy and Jacob got out of the house and then David went to see what was causing the issue. One of the alarms was installed directly above the water heater, which was smoking. He quickly shut off the electricity to the water heater, which eliminated the source of the fire and kept it from spreading. Mr. Cofer explained to Ed Helphinstine Red Cross Disaster Program Manager that the smoke alarm not only saved his new home but saved his family’s life as well. He was grateful for the smoke alarms that Red Cross had installed. At the speed that home fires spread, the house would have been fully engulfed before they ever woke up and smelled the smoke upstairs—if they would have woken up at all.
Two years ago the Red Cross created a Home Fire Campaign with people like the Cofers in mind. Seven times a day, someone dies in a home fire in the United States, and the Red Cross created a goal to reduce the number of deaths and injuries from home fires by 25 percent through the installation of free smoke alarms. To date, more than 250 lives have been saved through the campaign. The Cofers, who live in South Webster, Ohio, in Scioto County, are the first confirmed family in our region to be saved as a result of the smoke alarm installation efforts by the Ohio River Valley Red Cross.
“The fastest way to escape a home that’s on fire is to actually know that it’s on fire,” says Debbie Smith, Ohio River Valley Red Cross Community Executive, “and the fastest way to know that it’s on fire is with a smoke alarm. A smoke alarm will let you know there’s a fire long before you ever smell the smoke or see the flames. That’s exactly what happened with the Cofers. It saved their home and their lives. Thanks to the help of our disaster staff and volunteers the local Red Cross has installed 1,771 free smoke alarms in the past 12 months. If interested in volunteering to help or you need smoke alarms contact our local Red Cross at 740-354-3293”
Research shows the increase in home fire deaths and injuries are a result of two factors:
One, as a result of modern synthetic fabrics and other factors, homes today burn as much as eight times faster than homes did 30 years ago. And, two, the fires also produce thicker, denser smoke that is filled with carbon monoxide, cyanide and other toxins, which is the most common cause of death.
However, research also shows that having working smoke alarms in a home increases the chances the chances of survival by 50 percent. The reason is simple: Time. With fires burning so much faster and hotter, occupants have just two to three minutes to escape a home once a fire starts. That may seem like a lot of time, but it’s not, especially while dealing with blinding, toxic smoke. Smoke alarms—especially when combined with an escape plan and knowing what to do once they go off—really do save lives.
The smoke alarms —as well as all disaster-related services provided by the Red Cross — are free. The Red Cross is not a governmental agency, so the costs to provide these services comes from donations provided by the generosity of the American public. Anyone wishing to make a donation to support families suffering as a result of disasters such as home fires or purchase life-saving items such as smoke alarms are encouraged to do so. To make a gift, go to RedCross.org, call 1-800-REDCROSS or text REDCROSS to 90999 or mail to 1801 Robinson Ave Portsmouth OH 45662.