Sounding the alarm: Red Cross installs 134 free smoke alarms for Bed-Stuy residents

Nathalie Sayago/American Red Cross

Volunteers from the American Red Cross teamed up with the city’s Fire Department on Monday to install 134 free smoke alarms in the homes of Crown Heights and Bed-Stuy residents as part of the charity’s fire awareness campaign.

The smoke alarms were installed in 45 homes of residents in the Brooklyn neighborhoods who had previously registered for installation appointments under the the Home Fire Campaign, aimed at reducing the risk of death from home fires throughout New York City.

“The feedback was very positive from the people’s homes that we entered and provided the service to,” volunteer Anthony Schiavo told Brooklyn Paper. “They were grateful of the fact that the service is available and being provided to the residents — and they were also grateful for the volunteers that provide their time in actually executing this program.”

“The American Red Cross is primarily known for responding to disasters and this program is in the spirit of being prepared to prevent disasters,” Schiavo said of the initiative, which has received renewed interest from Brooklynites concerned about the number of fires in the city over the last year, many of which were started by lithium-ion batteries.

Nathalie Sayago/American Red Cross

Last year, the city passed legislation to ban the sale and use of unregulated e-bikes and batteries and cracked down on e-bike stores to ensure the dangerous batteries are stored safely. The FDNY has also been running a public safety campaign on the dangers of lithium-ion batteries which are prone to exploding, causing fast-moving, hard-to-contain fires, when they are not stored properly, or are charged with the wrong cables and equipment.

A spokesperson for the American Red Cross said its partnership with the FDNY has been reinvigorated of late due to the number of domestic fires in the city and the displacement they have caused. Since Jan. 1, 2023, the ARC has registered 891 households — 2,450 individuals, including 598 children — for emergency assistance after 340 separate fires in Brooklyn.

“There are plenty of reasons why people do not have the proper amount of smoke detectors, whether it’s knowledge base or whether it was resource driven,” Schiavo said, noting that the initiative is open to all New Yorkers who require alarms or a refresh in fire safety training. “We are going out in the field in people’s homes, giving them fire safety education and providing them with smoke and carbon monoxide detectors that are making them safer in their homes. We get to help the community before disaster happens or at least try to prevent one.”

Nathalie Sayago/American Red Cross

In search of a way to give back to his community, Schiavo got involved with the ARC after retiring from a career in finance five years ago — and he encourages others to do the same.

“I think it’s a great way to get involved in the community and to meet other people, even within the Red Cross for other opportunities,” he said.

The Red Cross is seeking more volunteers to help support the Home Fire Campaign one to two days per month for future fire alarm installation events.

“Interested volunteers should be people who are comfortable in diverse environments with one to two days availability per month,” an ARC spokesperson said. “The current volunteer needs are greatest for drivers and installers who should be comfortable using a power drill and able to climb ladders. Training is provided; drivers must have a valid driver’s license and pass a driver history background check.”

More information on becoming a volunteer or registering for a free fire alarm can be found here.