Free smoke alarms: St. John fire safety initiative planned

Published 12:13 am Wednesday, October 25, 2017

LAPLACE — In partnership with the St. John Office of Fire Services and St. John United Way, representatives from American Red Cross will go door-to-door down Cambridge Drive in LaPlace and offer to install free smoke alarms and replace expired batteries in existing smoke alarms from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday.

The neighborhoods surrounding Cambridge Drive were identified as an area that could benefit from the initiative, according to Ashley Duhe, administrative assistant of the St. John Office of Fire Services.

However, St. John Parish residents not located in this area can also receive free services.

Red Cross volunteer Shane Taylor said he’ll be installing smoke alarms along with representatives from the St. John Office of Fire Services on Sunday, and he would be happy to drive to nearby neighborhoods and deliver to anyone who calls between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Those not available during the allotted time can secure a smoke alarm by contacting Taylor at 504-235-2118 or calling the American Red Cross of Southeast Louisiana in Hahnville at 985-785-0647.

St. John residents can also receive a smoke alarm from the St. John Office of Fire Services year-round, Duhe said, by calling 985-652-9445 or coming to 521 Hemlock St. in LaPlace to fill out forms.

Red Cross is installing smoke detectors as part of the Home Fire Campaign, a nationwide initiative that began in 2014 to reduce deaths and injuries caused by home fires.

The campaign has saved 11 lives in Southeast Louisiana and 268 nationwide, according to a Red Cross press release.

Three smoke alarms will be installed per household, and Taylor said he hopes to reach at least 50 houses.

“Fifty is our minimum goal,” Taylor said. “We know we’re equipped to do more.”

Taylor said the campaign also has an educational focus. While representatives install smoke alarms and replace batteries, they will also speak to residents about fire safety.

For the past eight months, Taylor has dedicated time to volunteering for Red Cross, sometimes putting in as many as 40 to 50 hours a week while also working another job. He became involved after seeing community response to the work he did in the aftermath of the tornado that devastated parts of New Orleans in February.

“Being able to help is an amazing feeling,” Taylor said. “The way I see it, no other organization will come out at 2 in the morning and help you.”

Taylor said Red Cross responds to home fire emergencies every eight minutes nationally. Locally, the organization is focused on preventive efforts with the help of grants provided by St. John United Way.