National campaign aims to extinguish home-fire fatalities in the Southern Tier


Many people take them for granted, but all it takes is one time to prove what a life saver a smoke alarm can be during a potentially fatal home fire. 

“Sometimes we will ask, ‘how long do you think it takes to get out of your home,” Brian McConnell, the Finger Lakes Chapter Executive Director for the Red Cross, said. “They’ll say, ‘five, ten minutes.’ But the average is two minutes.”

Since 2008, Chemung and Steuben Counties led the Southern Tier in home-fire deaths. The good news is the number of fatal fires is going down since the Red Cross began its “Sound the Alarm” campaign in 2014. And the goal is to reduce the number of fire-related deaths even further.

“I suspect we will reach the goal, by December 2019, to have reduced the number of fatalities and injuries caused by home fires by 20 percent,” McConnell said.

But just how will the Red Cross do that? By installing 100 smoke detectors in so-called “at risk communities,” free of charge. The detectors can last 10 years and are tamper resistant.

“It’s not like someone is going to take the batteries out of an alarm and play a videogame or use the batteries for something else in the house,” Peter Wallin, an insurance agent and sponsor of the campaign, said. 

Wallin says simply having smoke detectors or other fire emergency plans doesn’t necessarily lower your insurance costs, but making sure your neighbors do could do your whole neighborhood a favor. 

“More claims in the area means more prices for insurance,” Wallin said. “Less claims, or less severe claims, hopefully can cause insurance prices to drop in the future.”

the 100 detectors are part of the 100,000 that will be installed across the country between September 23 and October 15. 

For more information and to even request a free smoke detector, just visit

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