BILLINGS – The American Red Cross partnered with the Billings Fire Department Friday to start installing free smoke detectors in up to 60 homes.
And, in the case of Ronald Wachtman of Billings, there was an additional wrinkle: Wachtman is hearing impaired.
To meet his needs, Red Cross personnel and firefighters installed a specialized vibrating smoke detector in his home.
The vibrator listens for a standard fire alarm tone and upon hearing an alarm causes a plate that is placed under the mattress to vibrate. This equipment works with standard smoke detectors so those in need will not need to retrofit their detectors.
The event was part of Sound the Alarm, a Red Cross initiative to get smoke alarms into homes across the country. In its most recent push, the Red Cross has installed over 100,000 alarms in 100 countries in the last month. In the history of the program, the nonprofit has installed over a million smoke detectors.
Matt Ochsner, a Red Cross spokesman, said fire preparedness is key because house fires are the number one disaster that the Red Cross responds to.
The Red Cross provides literature on creating an evacuation plan for families for house fires. In an average house fire, people have two minutes to get out of their home. Seven lives are lost to domestic fires in America each day. This makes the effectiveness of fire alert systems paramount, according to the Red Cross.
People who need new smoke detectors, both standard models or the specialized vibrating unit, can call the non-emergency fire department number at 406-657-8423 or at the Red Cross toll free number 1-800-733-2767.
The push continues tomorrow, and the Red Cross is still looking for volunteers to help with installations. Those interested can report at 9 a.m to South Park in Billings. Training will be provided.