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Wichita fire deaths spur campaign to update smoke detectors (+video)

VIDEO: Wichita fire deaths prompt effort to install smoke alarms

Members of the American Red Cross and the Wichita Fire Department went door to door in the Ninth and Minnesota area Saturday offering to install smoke detectors. Fourteen people in the area have died in fires since 2009. (Dan Voorhis/The Wichita E
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Members of the American Red Cross and the Wichita Fire Department went door to door in the Ninth and Minnesota area Saturday offering to install smoke detectors. Fourteen people in the area have died in fires since 2009. (Dan Voorhis/The Wichita E

In two hours, members of the Red Cross and the Wichita Fire Department visited seven houses. Every one needed new smoke detectors.

The team was one of several in the neighborhood that went door-to-door asking homeowners if they needed and wanted new smoke alarms.

The short answer: yes, please.

The Red Cross marked its 100th anniversary in Wichita on Saturday by focusing on fire prevention. The 67214 ZIP code in north-central Wichita has experienced 14 fire deaths since 2008.

Red Cross volunteer Joshua Jones said that members of a household have an average of just two minutes to get out of the house after a fire is discovered.

“That’s one of the things we hear most often: ‘I can’t believe how fast it was,’ ” Jones said.

In a small, neat house on Minnesota, just south of Ninth Street, Earl Walker seemed a little surprised when six people knocked on his door at about 9:30 Saturday morning and asked to squeeze into his living room, but he welcomed them in.

They quickly checked what he had – he had several smoke detectors, but they were a couple of years beyond their replacement date. The team installed three new 10-year battery smoke detectors.

Walker, who is a former Red Cross employee, said he was thankful for the gesture.

“For sure,” he said. “I appreciated them coming in. Having good smoke detectors is so important.”

The team ran into Elsa Romero a few doors down. It turned out she and her husband not only live there but own several houses in the neighborhood.

They were in the process of renovating a house on Minnesota and were happy to have the crew install new smoke detectors for future tenants.

“A lot of times, we don’t have time to check the fire alarms,” she said.

The American Red Cross has launched a campaign to reduce the number of fire deaths and injuries by 25 percent over the next five years.

As part of that, the organization is asking people to do two things: check existing smoke detectors to make sure they are still operating, and practice fire drills at home.

The organization recommends that residents:

▪ Install smoke detectors on every level, high on the wall or on the ceiling.

▪ Test the smoke detectors regularly and install new batteries yearly.

▪ Get new smoke detectors every 10 years.

▪ Keep items that can catch fire at least 3 feet away from anything that gets hot, such as stoves or space heaters.

▪ Never smoke in bed.

▪ Turn portable heaters off when leaving the room or going to sleep.

▪ Have a plan to get out of the house in less than two minutes.

▪ Have two ways to get out of every room.

▪ Agree on a safe place to meet up outside.

▪ Practice your escape twice a year.

Reach Dan Voorhis at 316-268-6577 or dvoorhis@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @danvoorhis.

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