Middletown residents eligible for free smoke detectors due to city’s ‘frightening statistics’

Middletown fire Chief Paul Lolli said every house should have a working smoke detector. The fire department, the Red Cross and community partners are holding events the next two Saturdays to register residents and to install the devices. SUBMITTED PHOTO
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Middletown fire Chief Paul Lolli said every house should have a working smoke detector. The fire department, the Red Cross and community partners are holding events the next two Saturdays to register residents and to install the devices. SUBMITTED PHOTO

The Middletown Division of Fire, the American Red Cross and community partners are hoping to reverse a trend in the city.

Of the residential fires in Middletown the last two years, smoke alarms were present in less than half of the homes, according to the Middletown fire department. In 56% of those fires, there was either no smoke alarm present, or firefighters were unable to determine the presence of a smoke alarm.

Among the 43% of house fires where a smoke alarm was present, there was no indication the alarm was in working condition. In 30% of the residential fires in Middletown in 2019 and 2020 residents were alerted to the fire by a working smoke alarm.

Stephanie Byrd, executive director of the Central and Southern Ohio Region of the American Red Cross, called these “frightening statistics.”

She said working smoke alarms cut the risk of dying in a house fire in half.

So Middletown was selected as one of more than 50 at-risk communities participating in the nationwide Red Cross “Sound the Alarm” initiative. Middletown will host a “Day of Action” on May 8 when Middletown firefighters fulfill the installation appointments and Red Cross volunteers share fire safety information with residents and help create an escape plan to practice their two-minute fire drill.

“It is extremely important that every household has a smoke detector,” Middletown Division of Fire Chief Paul Lolli said.

He said the highest number of fatal fires occur overnight, and a majority are within homes without a smoke detector.

To prepare for the May 8 event, Middletown will host a “Sound the Alarm Awareness Day” Saturday in hopes of registering residents for the free smoke detectors.

Food provided by Gracie’s will be served at noon Saturday in the Swallen’s lot downtown. Then a fire truck procession around Middletown neighborhoods will be held from 1-2 p.m. A community awareness event and more food will be served from 2-3 p.m. at the Robert “Sonny” Hill Community Center, 800 Lafayette Ave.

Stephen Hightower, a Middletown resident, is spearheading the events at the community center. He said it’s “disheartening” to hear the community has an abnormal rate of deaths and injuries from fires since something “so simple” like installing a smoke alarm is often overlooked.

Since launching the campaign in 2014, the Red Cross has helped save nearly 850 lives across the country by helping families create escape plans and installing free smoke alarms, according to the Red Cross.

To schedule an installation appointment, Middletown residents should call 844-207-4509.

Tri-state residents living outside of Middletown are encouraged to call 844-207-4509 to request a virtual education appointment and referral to a partner agency for installation of free smoke alarms.

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