COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) – At 3201 6th Avenue in Columbus, a vacant house on the corner of a block stands marred by black soot. Though the cause of the fire which happened on Saturday, April 15 is still unconfirmed, Fire Chief John Shull and the Red Cross are working to prevent house fires in this area with their upcoming Sound the Alarm event on Saturday, April 22 from 9:15 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

“It’s a collaborative effort to get smoke alarms out to the community,” Shull said.

Shull continued that fire alarms are a vital lifesaving device when, on average, people have about two minutes and 12 seconds to exit their homes once a fire starts. He noted that evacuation in such a short time is especially difficult if people have a late response because they were asleep or if someone has mobility issues.

The area for this year’s event is Lawyer’s Lane from Washington to Wood Street, Shull said.

According to E.J. Bess, the Disaster Prevention Manager for Red Cross who helped coordinate the event alongside Shull, locations are generally chosen by working with local fire departments, then canvassing to focus events.  

Shull said he chose the neighborhood based on local fire activity data and its lower socioeconomic profile.

“Those are the areas that we want to get out [to] because these are places where people may not be able to afford smoke alarms,” Shull told WRBL.

According to the Red Cross’ webpage dedicated to Sound the Alarm events across Georgia from April 15 to May 6 of this year, smoke alarms will be offered for free. Installation will also be charge-free.

“You know, a lot of the things I tell people, it’s based on experience because I was in the field as a firefighter for years, but then it’s also based on me looking at the data all the time,” Shull said.

The fire chief reported that cooking fires are probably the leading cause for house fires in the U.S. and reminded homeowners not to leave food unattended while it cooks and to have a portable fire extinguisher. Insurance company State Farm’s website corroborated Shull’s estimation.

Shull explained that people can practice fire safety beyond installing smoke alarms by having an evacuation plan with two methods for exiting the residence and a designated meetup spot, like a mailbox, for accountability in case of emergency. He also said investing in a fire escape ladder if living above the ground floor is another good idea.

Shull said that a great way for the community to get involved with local fire safety is to pass on the information.

He emphasized that even those who don’t live in the area where Sound the Alarm will take place can still contact the fire station and Red Cross to get a free smoke alarm and free installation. Shull said, “If you know somebody that needs a smoke alarm, let them know that the fire department can provide that; Red Cross can provide that, so there are sources to get that.”

100 to 130 smoke alarms are expected to be installed this Saturday, according to Shull. Interested parties can also volunteer to help with alarm installation for Muscogee County’s Sound the Alarm event by registering on the Red Cross website.