Unique Smoke Detector Saves Lives in Virginia

Updated: June 03, 2019 05:48 PM

Jennifer Johnson was enjoying a barbecued meal in her upstairs apartment a couple of weeks ago. But then, her smoke detector wouldn't stop going off. "It says fire, get out, call 911. It also vibrates the entire house," she said.

There wasn't a fire in her place. But she knew something was wrong. So she and her boyfriend went downstairs. "We looked, and saw and smelled smoke. He got into the apartment, got the dog out, and took the pan off the stove. I called 911."

That's how it's all supposed to work. But this story is unique, because Jennifer is hard of hearing. Her alarm was just installed a couple of months ago, and is designed for those with hearing loss.

"I think it's one of the best devices I've seen," she said. "I'm very grateful for it."

Chris Clark, the Fire Marshal in Virginia, installed it himself. "We've been partnered with the Red Cross for a couple of years now on the Home Fire Campaign. This is an expensive device, and it can be a financial hardship for somebody's safety."

He arrived on the scene of the fire that night, and remembers feeling good that everything worked the way it was supposed to. "It was kind of exciting to know we front-loaded early enough. This fire ended up being a small cooking fire, but in a manner of minutes, it could have turned into a big flame and big fire and we could have had life and property lost from that."

Dan Williams, Executive Director of the American Red Cross Serving Northern Minnesota, was pleased too. "When we found out about this incident, we were in a meeting with a bunch of emergency communicators. It was really stunning to all of them to hear what a really tangible impact this program has in our community."

The Home Fire Campaign has been a big success. "We've installed over 9000 free smoke detectors in at-risk homes since 2015," Williams shared.

There haven't been as many hard-of-hearing devices placed. But a $25,000 anonymous donation will ensure anyone who needs one, can get one. "100%," Williams added.

If you need a smoke detector, please contact the American Red Cross in Duluth: 218-722-0071

Copyright 2019 WDIO-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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