Free Smoke Alarms Help Local Senior Citizens Breathe Easy

Kristee Lauro, Disaster Program Manager at the American Red Cross; John McCrone, Fix It Volunteer Supervisor and Red Cross volunteer Frank Solana meet with seniors to assess needs at a recent event. (Photo courtesy Catholic Charities)

LAKEWOOD – Almost 200 senior citizens living in Ocean County can breathe easier this fall thanks to a partnership between the Catholic Charities’ Fix It Program and the American Red Cross New Jersey Region, as the two groups plan to install over 300 smoke alarms at no cost to seniors.

“Working smoke alarms reduce home fire deaths by 50%,” said Kristee Lauro, Disaster Program Manager of the American Red Cross New Jersey Region. “We are pleased to work with Catholic Charities as our partners with the Home Fire Campaign to help make New Jersey families safer.”

Only 60 percent of the 190 homes benefiting from the campaign had a working smoke alarm, said Fix It Program Volunteer Supervisor John McCrone, adding, “The installations will significantly improve fire safety for our clients, who are typically older than 70 and lack mobility.”

The Fix It Program gets regular requests from people who need help replacing their smoke alarm batteries. The alarms being provided by the American Red Cross use 10-year batteries, which will significantly reduce the amount of service calls for battery changes and allow Fix It volunteers to focus on other types of assistance.

Since Fix Its’ partnership with the American Red Cross in May of last year, over 600 smoke alarms have been installed. One recent installation was somewhat unexpected. Fix It volunteer Fred Bahr visited the home of a woman who had recently fallen and broken her hip. She asked that a grab bar be installed, but when Fred checked her smoke alarms, he noticed the batteries had expired and decided to replace them too.

“This is a routine practice of Fix It volunteers,” said McCrone. “Noticing her batteries had expired, he replaced the alarms with those from the American Red Cross. This couldn’t be a better story about how our two organizations are collaborating to serve those most in need.”