‘Sound the Alarm’ event ignites fire awareness and community safety in Durham

Thursday, March 7, 2024

By Alyssa Clark

The Durham Fire Department is hosting its annual Sound the Alarm event, where they install new smoke alarms in homes around the community, on March 9.

The event is in conjunction with the American Red Cross, which has a program that seeks out communities where there have been frequent fires in that area. 

The goal of the smoke alarm canvases is to keep Durham residents aware of fire safety.

Elaine Towner has been working with the Durham Fire Department for 30 years as the fire education captain.

Towner is responsible for community education and hosts educational events on safety, like how to use a fire extinguisher and perform CPR. 

Towner also engages with the community by meeting people in their homes to offer home safety suggestions.

“Having an event like this just gives us an opportunity to maybe give someone that little piece of information that’ll save them from having an emergency where the firetruck shows up on their door,” said Towner.

Event participants receive smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms, which are important if a home has appliances like a gas stove.

“In 2022, there were 151 deaths in North Carolina from house fires and the statistic is about 48% of those (houses) didn’t have working smoke alarms,” said Towner. 

The Durham Fire Department is working to lower that statistic through community education and events like Sound the Alarm, which is in its fifth year.

Having smoke alarms is important, but it is essential to have working smoke alarms.

“It’s a device we don’t think too much about until we burn toast and it goes off, but it’s an important device to have in your home,” said Towner.

Smoke alarms have a lifespan of about ten years. A big factor when looking for communities to hold the event is the age demographic. Older neighborhoods are the most likely to have expired smoke alarms, which the Red Cross takes into account when seeking neighborhoods to hold events like this one. 

A group from the Red Cross will go out a day before the event to put informational door hangers on door knobs.

Volunteers, firefighters and fire officials go out in teams to the neighborhood to check the quality and functionality of the smoke alarms. 

“Always check that smoke alarm, plan and practice your escape plan with your family, make sure you have a meeting place and come together outside,” Towner said regarding simple safety advice for a home fire.

The Durham Fire Department is also always looking for volunteers.

The Sound the Alarm event provides a space to give back to the community of Durham to help out with events, such as this one, and see how the fire department operates. 

People can also sign up for the event at redcross.org or durhamfd.org, or request a smoke alarm by calling the number on the door hanger.

For more information on the Sound the Alarm event, visit their website or Facebook: @DurhamFireDepartment. 

Edited by Jessica Walker