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Volunteers distribute free smoke alarms throughout Elk Valley

By Clint Thomas, Metro Reporter
On June 20, volunteers distributed free smoke alarms throughout the area. Pictured, from left, are Jacob Clendenin of the Clendenin VFD; Red Cross volunteers Christopher Hill and Justin Williams; volunteer Betty Beard; Red Cross Regional Communications Officer Krista Farley; volunteers Cheryl Hoffer and Justin Lovejoy; AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer Austin Roach; and Red Cross Regional Chief Executive Officer Erica Mani.

American Red Cross West Virginia Region volunteers and officials observed West Virginia Day, Tuesday, June 20, by installing free smoke alarms in communities affected by the cataclysmic floods of June 2016, including those along the severely stricken Elk River area.

As part of the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign, workers in Clay, Greenbrier, Kanawha and Roane counties met to distribute the smoke detectors on West Virginia Day. The Kanawha County teams convened at the Greater Kanawha Long Term Recovery Committee office on Koontz Drive in Clendenin. They proceeded to install smoke alarms in households throughout Clendenin, Elkview and Bomont in nearby Clay County, assisted by members of the Clendenin Volunteer Fire Department.

“In addition to our work with the long-term recovery groups, the Red Cross wants to ensure those impacted by the flooding have working smoke alarms in their home,” American Red Cross West Virginia Region Regional Chief Executive Officer Erica Mani said. “On West Virginia Day, we want to help the communities who lost so much and ensure they have the tools they need to prevent and prepare for a home fire, the most common disaster we see in West Virginia.

“In addition to the thousands of individual disaster cases we’ve done over the last year,” Mani said, “the Red Cross has installed over 8,000 smoke alarms statewide. Over the summer, we intend to install hundreds of alarms in this area.

“We took two approaches today. One, we called for appointments and worked with the fire department. We also went door to door, hoping to prevent additional disasters and loss from home fire. We also put our phone number out for people to call to ask for appointments,” she said.

Mani said the 10 alarm-distribution team members were all Red Cross-affiliated volunteers. They and Clendenin firefighters collected names, addresses and other pertinent information for the installations.

“This is the kickoff of an effort throughout the one-year-anniversary time frame, and celebrating West Virginia Day, we wanted to commemorate the strength, the resilience and the rebuilding of Clendenin,” she said.

The free smoke alarm installations have been welcomed by the town’s fire department, as well.

“We’ve been buying smoke detectors out of our fire department budget,” Clendenin Volunteer Fire Department Assistant Chief Thomas Mitchell said. “We think it’s pretty important to get smoke detectors out there, particularly after the flooding. We’re trying to help them get somewhat back to normal.”

Mani said since last June’s flooding, hundreds of volunteers from throughout West Virginia and the rest of the United States have rallied to help the Elk Valley area rebound from the widespread flood damage.

“Obviously, when this disaster struck a year ago, we had to pull together a lot of volunteers. ... Now, our volunteers are continuing to work in the recovery phase and are participating in long-term recovery groups. We’re working with all of those other volunteer organizations active in disaster relief and trying to help make people whole again or at least help them get to a place where they are recovering,” Mani said.

The American Red Cross launched the Home Fire Campaign three years ago, to reduce fire-related deaths and injuries by 25 percent in a five-year period. The campaign provides families and communities with the tools and information they need to prevent and prepare for home fires. According to Red Cross literature, a dozen West Virginians have avoided injury and death in home fires following the installation of smoke alarms through the campaign.

To request a smoke alarm installation in your home, call 1-844-216-8286.

To learn more about the American Red Cross West Virginia Region, visit or go to Facebook or Twitter.


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