Long Beach, Red Cross ensure homes have working smoke alarms


To install a smoke alarm, find a spot on the ceiling no less than eight inches from the nearest wall. Next, drill holes, attach the alarm to the mounting bracket and twist the smoke alarm into place. Finish up by making sure the alarm is secure and ensuring the necessary batteries are inside.

Those are the steps that American Red Cross volunteers, city and state officials followed on April 13 to ensure fire safety in Long Beach.

All those who volunteered their time helped install free smoke alarms in residents’ homes as part of the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign, which started at 10 years ago. The campaign is a national program, so any place in the country can call the Red Cross, and can request for our volunteers to come out and do an in-home fire safety education visit as well as installing free smoke alarms in their homes. The program usually targets a lot of high-risk neighborhoods.

“This is such a lifesaving program,” Red Cross board member Stacey Sweet said. “Over 2,000 lives over the course of this program have been saved, 14,000 free smoke alarms have been put up on Long Island alone. This is a real lifesaver and we couldn’t be more grateful for our partners here in Long Beach.”

City Councilmen Mike Reinhart and John Bendo, City Manager Dan Creighton and Legislator Pat Mullaney joined nearly 20 volunteers at Long Beach City Hall bright and early, were divided into teams, and set out to numerous homes. Not every home needed new alarms, with some just needed the pre-existing ones to be double-checked.

“This is such a great service and I’m so happy to be a part of it,” Reinhart said. “I hope it’s the first of many more.”

For anybody who signed up for the program, the Red Cross sent a team of at least three people, including a documenter, an educator and an installer. They did an assessment, hung the new alarms — if needed — and taught the resident about fire safety, having an escape plan, getting out in less than two minutes and having a meeting point. They also taught them about the hush button on the alarms, which many people don’t know about, according to program director Joe Spaccarelli.

The first home visited by the “elected official team” was Mark Nissenbaum, who moved into his current apartment in 1999. He was unsure if his current alarms worked correctly or if he needed new ones, so he made the decision to have the group come out and check. He didn’t need new ones, but was happy he made the call to be sure.

The team also paid a visit to Harold Prince, who moved to Long Beach recently after 60 years in Franklin Square. He learned of the program from his daughter, Linda, and felt compelled to make the call. He had pre-existing alarms, but did need one new one. The new alarms installed through the program have a battery life of 10 years.

“We have a wonderful partnership with our friends here in Long Beach,” Jose Dominguez, CEO of the group on Long Island, said. “All these wonderful faces are going out every weekend, practically, and we could not provide the services that we do without our volunteers who are 90 percent of our workforce. Our volunteers here on Long Island alone work over 60,000 hours, so we could not do what we do without them.”