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San Joaquin Valley College Blog

SJVC Bakersfield students join American Red Cross Home Fire Awareness campaign

December 23, 2015

Bakersfield Home Fire ClubSeven times a day, someone in this country dies in a home fire. That is a hard fact shared in statistics the American Red Cross provides to communities, especially their high-risk neighborhoods.

Three SJVC Industrial Maintenance Technology (IMT) and two Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning & Refrigeration (HVAC-R) program students, as well as IMT instructor James Greer – all from SJVC Bakersfield – joined the Red Cross in their national campaign to reduce deaths and injuries from home fires.

Hoping to reduce home fires by 25 percent over the next five years, the Home Fire Awareness campaign teams will go door-to-door to educate residents about fire safety, the importance of working smoke detectors and planning fire escape routes.

On Nov. 14, 11 teams of four volunteers went to assigned neighborhoods and asked those answering their doors to participate in the information offering and smoke detector update.

“Each team had an educator who would provide a list of programs for disaster relief, information for determining an escape route and suggestions for an evacuation plan,” says James. “Other team members helped test smoke alarms and replace non-working alarms with the new non-removable 10-year battery smoke alarms.”

Many of the 87 homes visited that day had no smoke alarm system at all, or alarms with no batteries. “When old batteries start chirping, many people just pull them out and think they will get to it later; but later never comes,” says James.

23 batteries were replaced and 230 smoke alarms were installed among those homes inspected. Only 10 percent of the homes had the new standard smoke alarm in use.

“Though every house was a hit or miss, it was definitely worth the installations in people’s houses and [being able to] help them figure out what to do in case of a fire,” says Drew McKenzie, Industrial Maintenance Tech student. “Many were happy to go over the information and were amazed at the small things that could start a house fire.”

This home fire safety information is especially important to those who are in a wheelchair, or otherwise disabled. The elderly are especially vulnerable to situations that can quickly escalate to high threat and create chaos and confusion.

“After installing smoke alarms in many of the homes we went through, it felt good knowing that we are saving a lot of lives, in case of a fire,” says Ezra Su’a, HVAC-R student.

The Red Cross responds to nearly 70,000 disasters each year in the United States; and the vast majority of those are home fires. The Red Cross Central California Region is committed to decreasing this number through a proactive approach: Installing free smoke alarms and empowering families to make smart decisions during a disaster.

The day began for the teams at 9: a.m. and ended at 2 p.m., with a challenge to each team to install 30 new alarms. James Greer’s team netted a whopping 34 alarms.

“My experience with the American Red Cross was great,” says David Campos, IMT student. “It felt good knowing we made some families safer by simply installing a few smoke alarms in homes that did not have any.”

“We could have saved somebody’s life today,” says James. “You’ll never find out if you did; but chances are pretty good.”