Red Cross volunteers, firefighters to offer the service

It’s the annoying “beep” you hate to hear when the batteries are dying — but the smoke alarm’s beep is a sound that saves lives.

For those in need of an upgrade or who need smoke alarms installed in their homes, free alarms and service will be offered this Saturday.

“Sixty percent of all fire-related fatalities occur in a home that does not have a working smoke alarm,” said James Jarvis, the service to the armed forces manager for Camp Lejeune with the American Red Cross.

Jarvis is the event coordinator who will oversee the installation of, hopefully, 300 free fire alarms this weekend.

Through a FEMA grant, the Red Cross is installing the free fire alarms in homes across the country in an effort to reduce the number of fire-related death by 25 percent by October 2019, Jarvis, said.

The program, named the Home Fires Campaign, began in October 2014, Jarvis said, and has so far installed more than 450,000 alarms nationwide. More than 100 lives have been saved from a fire thanks to a smoke alarm installed as part of the campaign.

In Onslow County, 14 teams made up of about 75 volunteers including Marines, Red Cross workers and firefighters, will come together to honor Martin Luther King Jr.’s message of service by installing as many alarms as they can.

“Ultimately, we’re all on the same team trying to save as many lives as we can,” Jarvis said, adding that firefighters from the county and the Jacksonville Fire and Emergency Services will be helping.

It’s neighbors helping neighbors, Onslow County Fire Marshal Brian Kelly said.

The offer is open for anyone in need of a fire alarm installed, anyone who needs their alarms upgraded, or anyone who has questions about whether their home is protected properly, Kelly said.

“We want those who are in need to get these alarms,” Kelly said. “We want them to feel okay with asking for them.”

Kelly mentioned the event being a great opportunity for senior citizens who may be unable to replace their alarms. Having a new alarm installed gives people peace of mind, Kelly said. They lay their heads down at night knowing they will be alerted if anything happens.

In addition, they have special alarms for the deaf and hard of hearing, Kelly continued. The alarms are connected to a speaker that’s placed between the mattress and box spring on the bed so after six-to-seven beeps, the bed alarm begins to rattle and vibrate the bed to alert the sleeping person.

All of the alarms have lithium batteries included with 10-year lifespans, Kelly said. That means the batteries will never have to be changed; instead, when it comes time to do so the whole alarm can be upgraded, he added.

The regular alarms cost approximately $15-20 each , Kelly said, and all of it is paid for with the grant.

Jarvis said he hopes the volunteers will be able to work in more than 100 homes on Saturday, including from appointments and door-to-door knocking.

“The goal is to reduce the number of fire-related deaths in our community,” Jarvis said.

At the Red Cross, Jarvis covers six counties: Onslow, Duplin, New Hanover, Pender, Columbus and Brunswick, and said the Red Cross is called to homes because of a fire within the region six-to-eight times per week on average.

“It’s a much bigger problem and issue than you would expect,” he said.

During the winter months, Jarvis said those numbers tend to be higher since North Carolinians aren’t used to the bitter cold and don’t often use alternative heat sources, like space heaters. If someone’s heater falls over and doesn’t have an automatic turn-off, it could have fatal consequences.

About 20 homes had signed up for an appointment on Saturday as of Thursday morning, Jarvis said, but it’s not just happening this weekend. Volunteers will be installing and updating fire alarms in Onslow County on the first Saturday of every month at least until the end of the grant period in 2019, but Jarvis anticipates it lasting far longer than that.

To sign up, visit and click on the link for Smoke Alarm Installation Assistance Request. For questions, call the local Red Cross office at 910-451-2173.

Jarvis encouraged people to call and set up the appointment.

“The fire department and the Red Cross would much rather meet with you before a fire than meet with you after,” he said.