East-side homes may get free smoke detectors

By LEANN BURKE
lburke@dcherald.com

JASPER — Residents on Jasper’s east side could get new smoke detectors free of charge on Saturday, July 15.

The American Red Cross, the Jasper Volunteer Fire Department, the City of Jasper and Tri-Cap have teamed up for a home fire campaign that will canvass the area east of Main Street between Fourth and 30th streets to offer residents free smoke detectors and help with installation and creating a home fire escape plan.

The canvassing is part of the Red Cross’ home fire campaign that began a few years ago.

“We’re hoping to hit older homes that have smoke alarms that are old and probably need to be replaced,” said Becky Beckman, director of the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program at Tri-Cap.

The program’s participants volunteer in the home fire campaign.

During the canvassing, volunteers from JVFD will install high end smoke detectors in homes while other volunteers— including Beckman and people from her program­— record the residents’ information and number of detectors installed and help the household develop a fire escape plan. The smoke detectors are paid for by the American Red Cross.

Jasper Fire Chief Kenny Hochgesang chose the canvassing area because most of the homes in that section of the city are older and therefore may not have smoke detectors installed or have them installed in the proper place. Old guidelines suggested putting smoke detectors in the kitchen, hallways and on every level of the home. New construction, Hochgesang said, is required by code to have smoke detectors in every sleeping area, outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home, including the basement.

“Without a smoke detector, the residents may not wake up if there’s a fire,” Hochgesang said. “So they can definitely save someone’s life.”

The campaign will install smoke detectors that last 10 years and have sealed battery compartments. Otherwise people can remove the batteries for use in other devices.

“Then, of course, the smoke detector can never work,” Hochgesang said. “We really  feel that if they’re going to save your life, they need to work.”

About a decade ago, Beckman said, Tri-Cap ran a similar campaign for clients.

“It was one of the neatest little programs we’ve ever put together, but it was quiet expensive,” she said.

When the Red Cross presented the program and offered to fund it, Beckman was all in.

Theo Boots, director of the Red Cross’s Southern Indiana chapter, said the project has been popular in other areas and already saved some lives. “We’ve had people tell us they knew about the fire because they heard the alarm,” Boots said.

The Red Cross has already installed a few smoke detectors in Dubois County by appointment, but July 15 is the first kick-off the organization will host in the county. Boots said the Red Cross wanted to make sure enough supplies and manpower were available before pushing the campaign in Dubois County. With JVFD and Tri-Cap volunteers, the manpower is there.

After the initial campaign in Jasper, the plan is to expand the campaign throughout the county. Organizers and volunteers are going to set up a booth at the 4-H County Fair — July 17 through 20 — where people can sign up to have volunteers come to their homes, install smoke detectors and help develop a fire escape plan. The appointments take about 15 minutes.

The point of the campaign, Beckman said, is to reduce fire deaths, and she hopes the program is something residents will latch onto and take part in.

Anyone interested in volunteering or setting up an appointment should call the Dubois County campaign hotline at 812-610-9494 and leave a message.




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